Women and the Invisible Fist

A lot of libertarian analysis makes use of the concept of spontaneous order. As well it should; it’s an important concept, and especially important for understanding how many problems of social coordination can be solved in a free society without any government intervention or institutionalized central planning. But I think there are a couple complications involved in the concept which need to be noted, but often fail to be. (I figured it would be worthwhile to mention it now, because these points happened to come up recently in discussions over at Distributed Republic.)

First, the concept of spontaneous order, as it is employed in libertarian writing, is systematically ambiguous, depending on whether one is using spontaneous to mean not planned ahead of time, or whether one is using it to mean voluntary. Thus, the term spontaneous order may be used to refer strictly to voluntary orders — that is, forms of social coordination which emerge from the free actions of many different people, as opposed to coordination that arises from some people being forced to do what other people tell them to do. Or it may be used to refer to undesigned orders — that is, forms of social coordination which emerges from the actions of many different people, who are not acting from a conscious desire to bring about that form of social coordination, as opposed to coordination that people consciously act to bring about. It’s important to see that these two meanings are distinct: a voluntary order may be designed (if everyone is freely choosing to follow a set plan), and an undesigned order may be involuntary (if it emerges as an unintended consequence of coercive actions that were committed in order to achieve a different goal). While Hayek himself was fairly consistent and explicit in using spontaneous order to refer to undesigned orders, many libertarian writers since Hayek have used it to mean voluntary orders, or orders that are both voluntary and undesigned, or have simply equivocated between the two different meanings of the term from one statement to the next. It’s important to be clear about the difference between the two, because if you equivocate you are likely to expose yourself to certain confusions, and to find yourself wearing certain kinds of conceptual blinders.

The second point, which is related to the first, is that not all spontaneous orders are necessarily benign. Libertarians tend to write as if they were, probably because most of the examples of spontaneous order that libertarians are most interested in are examples where the process is benign — especially cases where a benign spontaneous order (say, the adjustment of prices to reflect changes in relative scarcity of goods in a market economy) provides an alternative to central planning, and does something important and worthwhile that State planners cannot do at all, or cannot do as well. But if widely distributed forms of intelligence, knowledge, virtue, or prudence can add up, through many individual self-interested actions, into an benign undesigned order, then there’s no reason why widely distributed forms of stupidity, ignorance, prejudice, vice, or folly might not add up, through many individual self-interested actions, into an unintended but malign undesigned order. Moreover, if you consider that spontaneous orders can emerge as unintended consequences of certain widespread forms of violence, then it ought to be especially clear that not all undesigned orders can be considered benign from a libertarian point of view.

Here’s a concrete example: Susan Brownmiller’s Myrmidon theory of stranger rape, which she explains in Chapter 6 of Against Our Will (The Police-Blotter Rapist). Brownmiller famously wrote, near the end of the first chapter of Against Our Will:

Man’s discovery that his genitalia could serve as a weapon to generate fear must rank as one of the most important discoveries of prehistoric times, along with the use of fire and the first crude stone axe. From prehistoric times to the present, I believe, rape has played a critical function. It is nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear.

— Susan Brownmiller (1975), Against Our Will pp. 14–15.

Critics of Brownmiller have often misunderstood this passage, mainly in ways which seem to come from not having read any further in the book than that paragraph. I’ve discussed some of those misunderstandings in the post and comments for GT 2004-03-03: She said, she said (for example, if you think that Brownmiller is claiming all men are rapists, you need to re-read the final sentence more carefully, and pay particular attention to what the verb in that sentence is). But my point in bringing it up here is that one way to get clearer on Brownmiller’s meaning is to look at how it connects with the Myrmidon theory, as presented in Chapter 6, and to think about both of them in light of the concept of a malign spontaneous order:

As described by Warden [Clinton] Duffy [of San Quentin] or as defined by the statistical profiles of the sociologists and the FBI, America’s police-blotter rapists are dreary and banal. To those who know them, no magic, no mystery, no Robin Hood bravura, infuses their style. Rape is a dull, blunt, ugly act committed by punk kids, their cousins and older brothers, not by charming, witty, unscrupulous, heroic, sensual rakes, or by timid souls deprived of a normal sexual outlet, or by super-menschen possessed of uncontrollable lust. And yet, on the shoulders of these unthinking, predictable, insensitive, violence-prone young men there rests an age-old burden that amounts to an historic mission: the perpetuation of male domination over women by force.

The Greek warrior Achilles used a swarm of men descended from ants, the Myrmidons, to do his bidding as hired henchmen in battle. Loyal and unquestioning, the Myrmidons served their master well, functioning in anonymity as effective agents of terror. Police-blotter rapists in a very real sense perform a myrmidon function for all men in our society. Cloaked in myths that obscure their identity, they, too, function as anonymous agents of terror. Although they are the ones who do the dirty work, the actual attentat, to other men, their superiors in class and station, the lasting benefits of their simple-minded evil have always accrued.

A world without rapists would be a world in which women moved freely without fear of men. That some men rape provides a sufficient threat to keep all women in a constant state of intimidation, forever conscious of the knowledge that the biological tool must be held in awe for it may turn into a weapon with sudden swiftness borne of harmful intent. Myrmidons to the cause of male dominance, police-blotter rapists have performed their duty well, so well in fact that the true meaning of their act has largely gone unnoticed. Rather than society’s aberrants or spoilers of purity, men who commit rape have served in effect as front-line masculine shock troops, terrorist guerrillas in the longest sustained battle the world has ever known.

— Susan Brownmiller, Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape, pp. 208–209.

One extremely common, rather coarse way of misunderstanding Brownmiller (or, mutatis mutandis, other radical feminists, when they say things like this) is to treat this kind of analysis as if it were some kind of conspiracy theory about rape — as if Brownmiller were claiming that, say, every first Monday of the month, all the men got together in a big meeting at the Patriarchy’s underground headquarters and decided to have some men commit stranger rape as a way to keep women down. Or, to be more charitable to uncharitable critics, as if Brownmiller were claiming that police-blotter rapists and other men who do not commit rape are consciously collaborating with one another, in some kind of social plan, promulgated from the top down, to intimidate women and bring about and sustain male supremacy.

The truth is that there are historical cases where groups or movements of men have consciously collaborated with one another to keep women down. (What else, for example, would you call the gynocide in Basra, or the psychiatric analysis and treatment of hysteria in Europe and America, or the Taliban, or 19th century American family laws, under which white husbands posted advertisements about fugitive wives — almost as frequently as they posted advertisements about fugitive slaves — and used the law and bounty-hunters to forcibly recapture wives who chose to leave home?) So that happens, but Brownmiller’s analysis of stranger rape doesn’t claim that that’s what’s happening when rapists reinforce the system of male supremacy. What she claims is that the pervasive fact of rape, and the threat that its pervasiveness inflicts on all women, produces a spontaneous (undesigned) order, so that the actions of rapists serve the role of promoting, sustaining, and reinforcing male supremacy.

It’s not controversial, or it shouldn’t be by now, that the threat of rape imposes constraints on women’s behavior: Don’t go out at night alone. Don’t make yourself noticeable on the subway. Don’t dress like that. Don’t act overtly sexual. Don’t go to that party. Don’t drink at that party. Or, if you do, then you better like whatever happens to you and you better not complain, because baby, you were asking for it.

And also: you better find the Right Man and enlist him to protect you from other men. (By walking you home at night. By slipping into a situation to block off the Wrong Men who are hassling you. By becoming your boyfriend or fiance or husband and looking out for you.)

The natural consequence of these restrictions is that women in our society are systematically constrained in their action by the fear of men. Women are not free because they must figure out how to live with the fact of widespread, intense, random violence against women. That fact has profound ripple effects on where women feel they can safely go. When they feel they can safely go there. What women feel they can safely do or say—especially what they can safely do or say in the presence of men. How they dress, how they take up space, how they react to social interactions that are wanted or unwanted. Some of this is conscious adjustment to fears and explicit warnings; a lot of it is the sort of small-scale, subconscious acts of vigilance and self-protection that we all carry out, as a daily routine, or as an expression of felt anxiety.

Another natural consequence is that men who don’t commit stranger rape, and who are genuinely concerned for the safety of women who are their daughters, their sisters, their friends, their lovers, or what have you, are in a material and emotional position where it is very tempting to see themselves as needing to protect the women they care about from the threat of male violence. The desire to protect an innocent person from violence is, in and of itself, a good thing, not a bad thing. But the danger here is that it’s an unethical and corrupting, but a very tempting and easy, psychological step for these men to come to see themselves as the sole protector, as a woman’s only safe option. To see women as uniquely frail and in need of protection by nature (rather than uniquely threatened due to the choices of other men). And to try to make sure that women seek and depend on and stay within the scope of a man’s protection, whether or not they really want it, by use of those intimidating and restrictive warnings, by harassing women (seen as foolish or bad) who step outside of the stiflingly close boundaries of those safety tips, in order to try to intimidate them into staying in the boundaries, and ultimately by blaming the woman, rather than her attacker, and writing off her suffering as nonexistent or unimportant, if some other man should choose to rape her after she has ignored those safety tips.

And many women will naturally look to men who act like that — that is, as Protectors — because they are realistically afraid of other men’s sexual aggression, and afraid of stranger rape, and they may like this particular guy, for other reasons, anyway, and so it is worth seeking out his help.

All of this can happen quite naturally when a large enough minority of men choose to commit widespread, intense, random acts of violence against a large enough number of women. And it can happen quite naturally without the raping men, or the protecting men, or the women in the society ever intending for any particular large-scale social outcome to come about. But what will come about, quite naturally, is that women’s social being — how women appear and act, as women, in public — will be systematically and profoundly circumscribed by a diffuse, decentralized threat of violence. And, as a natural but unintended consequence of many small, self-interested actions, some vicious and violent (as in the case of men who rape women), some worthwhile in their origins but easily and quickly corrupted (as in the case of men who try to protect women from rape), and some entirely rational responses to an irrational and dangerous situation (as in the case of women who limit their action and seek protection from men), the existence and activities of the police-blotter rapist serve to constrain women’s behavior and to intimidate women into becoming dependent on some men — and thus dependent on keeping those men pleased and serving those men’s priorities — for physical protection from other men. That kind of dependence can just as easily become frustrating and confining for the woman, and that kind of power can just as easily become corrupting and exploitative for the man, as any other form of dependence and power. (Libertarians and anarchists who easily see this dynamic when it comes to government police and military protection of a disarmed populace, shouldn’t have any trouble seeing it, if they are willing to see it, when it comes to male protection of women.)

Thus stranger rapists become the Myrmidons — the anonymous shock troops — of male supremacy, and the fact that nobody involved intends quite that, exactly, is quite irrelevant, because they serve their function in an violent undesigned order well enough whether anyone intended that or not.

I’ve been talking about stranger rape all this time because that’s what Brownmiller’s theory is about, and Brownmiller’s theory is a good case study in the point I’m trying to make. But similar remarks, with different but importantly related consequences, could be made for forms of violence against women which feminist activists and researchers have, over the past 30 years, demonstrated to be even more prevalent and even harder to escape than the threat of stranger rape — date rape, rape in marriage, battery, and so on. Because these forms of violence are committed by different men, in different circumstances, from stranger rape, and because they are widely experienced by women (about 1 in 4 women in the United States will be sexually or physically assaulted by an intimate partner), but far less widely and insistently discussed as an everyday threat to women’s safety than stranger rape is, there was comparatively little public knowledge about them at the time Brownmiller first published her book, and what we now know is that they have different functions in a violent undesigned order that exploits women, hurts women, and circumscribes their behavior to a limited sphere under the control and for the benefit of men. But those roles are more easily seen, and more fruitfully discussed, when they are seen as other expressions of a similar underlying phenomenon. Because of the central role that the pervasive danger of violence against women plays in sustaining it, and the way in which that pervasive, diffuse threat of violence constrains the liberty of women in everyday life to move and act and live as they want, libertarians and anarchists must recognize patriarchy as a system of violent political oppression older, no less invasive, and no less powerful, than the violence of the police state or the warfare state. But unlike the kinds of State violence to which male anarchists and libertarians are accustomed to discuss — violent restrictions of freedom handed down according to explicit State policies, ratified through political processes, promulgated from the top down and consciously carried out by officially appointed or deputized agents of the State — patriarchy expresses itself in attitudes, behaviors, and coercive restrictions that are largely produced by bottom-up, decentralized forms of violence, committed by many different men, who wouldn’t know each other from Adam, freelance terrorists who commit violence of their own accord, out of a desire to control but without any grand unified social plan, without conscious collaboration or conspiracy, sometimes in conflict with the explicit provisions of the law (though rarely investigated and ineffectively prosecuted in the male-dominated legal system). This is part of what I take Catharine MacKinnon to mean when she writes that:

Unlike the ways in which men systematically enslave, violate, dehumanize, and exterminate other men, expressing political inequalities among men, men’s forms of dominance over women have been accomplished socially as well as economically, prior to the operation of the law, without express state acts, often in intimate contexts, as everyday life. (1989, p. 161)

It’s important to recognize that the coercive social order that arises from this kind of diffuse gender violence, both as a direct consequence and as social, psychological, or economic ripple effects from the direct consequences — is no less real, no less effective, no less important, and no less evil, for being undesigned, for battering women into the social position they currently occupy as if by an invisible fist.

Far too many libertarian men still write as if the misogynistic oppression of women and spontaneous order were two radically different, and incompatible, explanations for differences in the socioeconomic status of men and women; as if anyone who sees anything systematically wrong here, something that merits exposure and resistance through conscious activism, must therefore be simply ignorant, or in denial, about the ways in which social outcomes can emerge, undesigned, from spontaneous order processes. But this is only the result of failing to pay attention to, or failing to charitably understand, what your interlocutors are saying. Libertarians have no reason to believe that all voluntary orders, much less all undesigned orders (which aren’t even guaranteed to be non-coercive), will be benign. And radical feminists, far from being socioeconomic creationists, are actually well practiced in using the concept of a spontaneous order — indeed, make significant use of it themselves in their own analysis of the differences between men and women’s socioeconomic status.

They happen to be right about that, and those of us who believe that freedom is for all human beings, and who work for an end to all forms of systematic political violence, have to fight, at the very least, a two-front war: against the violence of the State, and against the violence of patriarchy. But in order to fight back effectively we will have to see it for what it is, and to take it on on its own ground. It may very well be the case that the best methods for resisting the planned order of State coercion are not the same as the best methods for resisting the unplanned order of Patriarchal coercion. At the very least, a clear understanding of the dynamics of patriarchy — of the way in which an account like Susan Brownmiller’s is best understood, and the way it fits in with our understanding of spontaneous order — will be necessary to get a firm grip on what needs to be exposed and resisted.

Update 2008-05-20: Grammatical slips corrected, for the sake of clarity.

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125 replies to Women and the Invisible Fist Use a feed to Follow replies to this article · TrackBack URI

  1. LP

    Wow… this post just blew my mind. Really insightful and well-written — thanks for this.

  2. Discussed at distributedrepublic.net

    Spontaneous Order @ The Distributed Republic:

    […] Rad Geek discusses the concept of spontaneous order. […]

  3. Dave

    You have a program and your prefabricated explanations you think apply to the behavior of women. Your real contribution here is to point out that the fear in women being alone in certain situations arises out of spontaneous factors in the social environment and I compliment you for this observation.

    I doubt if you would apply the same reasoning if the scenario were slightly modified to explain why cab drivers don’t pick up groups of young Black men at night.

    What if Ms Brownmiller had said? “Black men’s discovery that his skin color could serve as a weapon to generate fear must rank as one of the most important discoveries ——- I believe, skin color has played a critical function. It is nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all Black men keep all White people in a state of fear.” She would be well received by the KKK perhaps but would be a pariah in your circles.

    What if you claimed that the pervasive fact of mugging of cab drivers, and the threat that its pervasiveness inflicts on all cab drivers, produces a spontaneous (undesigned) order, so that the actions of Black muggers serve the role of promoting, sustaining, and reinforcing fear of all Black men.

    I won’t go into some of the other gratuitous and unsupported conclusions you drew such as extensions of more sensible statement preceding them except to point out that things like “The desire to protect an innocent person from violence is, in and of itself, a good thing, not a bad thing. But-(for men to see themselves as) the sole protector, as a woman’s only safe option (is bad.) To see women as uniquely frail and in need of protection by nature (rather than uniquely threatened due to the choices of other men).etc, yada yada” just doesn’t follow from what precedes.

    In fact people have always inhabited a somewhat dangerous world. It can be more or less dangerous for anyone. People, both men and women have always sought natural alliances with other preferably stronger persons and groups and this may have carried a price of conformity to the wishes of others. There is no reason to make this mundane fact the fulcrum of some sort of grand political statement or demand for social change.

    A more simplistic approach seems to more helpful. Lock up all convicted rapists and muggers for a good long time. And don’t get the phenomenon of drunken college students doing stupid thing with their bodies mixed up with rape.

  4. Rad Geek

    Dave,

    I don’t think I’ve made any original contributions here, especially not about the role that the fear of rape plays in constraining women’s freedom. The contributions, for good or for ill, are Brownmiller’s, not mine, and are fully worked out in fairly explicit terms in her book. (Nor are they especially unique in the radical feminist literature, although her work was groundbreaking in that it was one of the first.) At most I have provided a translation into terms that some of my conversation partners might better understand.

    In your attempted reply, you’ve made a few mistakes that ought to be corrected.

    First, you seem to think that my purpose in this post is to prove that Brownmiller’s Myrmidon theory of stranger-rape is strue. It’s not. That’s an understandable error on your part, because I am trying to refute some common objections to her theory (and other theories like hers), and to give a charitable reconstruction of it in terms that some of my intended audience may find plausible. But my point about the relationship between spontaneous order and Brownmiller’s theory would remain true whether or not Brownmiller’s theory is actually true. (Lots of false theories make sophisticated use of the concept of spontaneous order.)

    It’s a good thing, because in point of fact I don’t even agree entirely with Brownmiller’s theory. I do agree entirely with something in the neighborhood, and while I disagree with parts of the analysis in Against Our Will, I don’t blame Brownmiller for anything she might have gotten wrong; the places where I disagree with that book are mostly places where discoveries made after 1975 — such as the discovery, from the early 1980s onward, of just how prevalent acquaintance rape, date rape, and marital rape, that is, rape committed by those supposed protectors, actually is, and how much more common it is than stranger rape — have required radical feminists to revisit their analysis. Thus there’s a lot of overlap, but some important differences, in the analysis of rape culture offered in later feminist works; for examples, see Andrea Dworkin’s Right-Wing Women and Intercourse.

    But, to return to the main point, even if you managed to convince me that Brownmiller is just dead wrong (which you haven’t), that wouldn’t affect the main point I wrote this post to make.

    Second, when you make your attempted analogy, it fails, because the two cases aren’t actually analogous.

    Brownmiller’s claim isn’t that some men’s propensity to commit stranger-rape reinforces some kind of general conclusion that all men will commit stranger-rape. Quite the contrary: her whole point in the Myrmidon discussion has to do with the effects of the prevalent threat of stranger-rape for the relationship between (1) women threatened by rape, and (2) men who don’t plan to, and who women don’t expect to, rape. So, unlike the case of (non-black?) urban cabbies drawing a general conclusion about all black men from their particular experience, the issue here doesn’t have anything in particular to do with the formation of collectivist prejudices or the projection of stereotypes by those threatened or victimized by violence.

    Brownmiller’s claim is also that spontaneous order arising from the actions of men who commit stranger-rape redound to the benefit of men who serve the role of protectors against stranger-rape. (Because it enhances their social status and makes certain women that much more dependent on them.) That makes the situation politically problematic for the men who want to hold on to those benefits, or who believe that those benefits are just the social consequences of an immutable and inborn human nature. If, on the other hand, you intend to claim that never being able to get a cab late at night — or the general fear, among white people, of black men — somehow redounds to the benefit of most black men, well, you probably need to think about things a bit harder.

    I know that it is popular among certain circles to try to attack just about anything a radical feminist says by trying to compare them to the Klan or Neo-Nazis or other hate groups, and to compare statements about class politics in America (in this case sex-class) to expressions of racial stereotypes or prejudices. But if you want to try to make that comparison you’ve got to actually find something that’s analogous in all the relevant respects of analysis and criticism, not just analogous in that it says something about the ways in which different groups of people relate to social power. Unless it is, you’re just engaging in lazy baiting, and wasting people’s time.

    I won’t go into some of the other gratuitous and unsupported conclusions you drew such as extensions of more sensible statement preceding them except to point out that things like “The desire to protect an innocent person from violence is, in and of itself, a good thing, not a bad thing. But-(for men to see themselves as) the sole protector, as a woman’s only safe option (is bad.) To see women as uniquely frail and in need of protection by nature (rather than uniquely threatened due to the choices of other men).etc, yada yada” just doesn’t follow from what precedes.

    It’s not intended to follow from what precedes. It’s an argument drawn from independent premises about power and dependence that I believe much of my audience (anarchists and libertarians, in particular) have independent reasons to believe. It is not a conclusion, but rather a lemma to justify one of the premises of my main argument.

    In fact people have always inhabited a somewhat dangerous world.

    The kind of danger we’re talking about — the danger of being randomly targeted for assault and sexual torture by a complete stranger in the midst of your day-to-day life — is not something that all people face equally, nor is it a natural feature of the world, like hurricanes or the black death. This kind of flattened-out, acontextual claim, abstracts from, and blanks out, all the actual details of sociological and political interest. Back in the real world, the prevalence of rape is a political fact, not some regrettable but immutable part of the misfortunes of the female sex.

    When particular forms of danger, violence, power, and dependence affect people unequally depending on their position within a system of social class, and when they are not natural features of the world but rather the products of deliberate human choice, I believe — and I think all other anarchists and libertarians have good reasons to believe — that they are perfectly reasonable subjects for analysis, criticism, and political action. I don’t know what your politics are, so I don’t know whether you’re a libertarian or an anarchist; maybe you’re not, in which case the reasons that libertarians and anarchists have for concern about this issue may not matter much to you. But they matter to me, and they matter to most of my intended audience.

    A more simplistic approach seems to more helpful. Lock up all convicted rapists and muggers for a good long time.

    This certainly is a simplistic approach, but it’s one that’s been tried for many, many years now, and as a matter of empirical results, it doesn’t seem to be especially helpful, at least not in isolation from other forms of political agitation, organizing, and comprehensive change.

    And don’t get the phenomenon of drunken college students doing stupid thing with their bodies mixed up with rape.

    You seem to want to turn this into an argument about date rape or party rape on college campuses. That’s not what this post is about; this post is about a particular theory of random stranger rape, not a theory that has anything directly to say about rape committed against particular women by their acquaintances, friends, or lovers. There are lots of other posts on the Internet that are about the latter, and I’m sure that you and I would have some pretty strong differences about those topics, if we were to discuss them, but in the comments thread on this post I’d rather deal with the issue at hand rather than changing the subject.

  5. Dain Fitzgerald

    “Brownmiller’s claim is also that spontaneous order arising from the actions of men who commit stranger-rape redound to the benefit of men who serve the role of ‘protectors’ against stranger-rape.”

    Is being in the role of “protector” a benefit? I don’t particularly want that challenge, nor the burden to “man up” that it implies.

  6. Bunty

    A further point, which you possibly allude to, is that potential spontaneous orders are multiplex (for the same system), even a small change in conditions can lead to one collapsing and another replacing it. The neo-liberal/libertarian approach seems predicated on the idea, that given ‘freedom’: The Spontaneous Order will emerge, and it will be Natural and Good (order implying divinity, as it were). This is rather tending towards an ideological belief. To be honest even that Wikipedia article is wandering a little towards the astrology end of the astrology/astronomy scale, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emergence is far better and less mono-cultural in apparent authorship—all IMHO of course :D

    An example I co-incidentally recently linked in a comment on another blog regards the emergent property of systems, in which preferential attachment is a part, to lead to the formation of aristocratic spontaneous order.

    Another would be rape/patriarchy one, there have been (are?) societies which were either gender-egalitarian or matriarchal, these were also the result of spontaneous order.

    This ‘freedom’ thing isn’t a sufficient condition to auto-magically lead to the emergence of a beneficial order, and in many cases could lead to a worse (and more hierarchical) order than the one we have.

  7. Robert Hutchinson

    At most I have provided a translation into terms that some of my conversation partners might better understand.

    That’s been a hell of a thing, just by itself, I’ll have you know. Your blog entries such as the one above, “unpacking” these ideas into (for me) more understandable arguments, have given me a good solid kick in the rear over the past couple of years. I don’t (yet) embrace it fully, but I feel I was a fool to ignore and belittle radical feminism in the past, and you have had a tremendous amount to do with it.

    (Plus, you just taught me the word “redound”. I don’t know how I never ran across that one before.)

  8. Anon73

    I guess you should be glad you don’t live in Japan Charles; their culture is twice as sexist as European culture and also much more acceptable.

  9. kipp

    Your and Brownmiller’s explicit framing of these ideas does, at least, translate them well into the language of the libertarian - but I would think any considerate person has reflected on how the danger of physical violence falls inordinantly on women. Rape is certainly a particularly nasty form of violence, but even if rape didn’t exist, women would still have to fear walking home alone in the wrong parts of town. Random violence against the vulnerable (children, the disabled, the elderly) has a systematic effect on how we all interact in the world.

    I’m not so sure I would want to frame these ideas so squarely inside the loaded framework of the evil patriarchy. The threat of violence against the vulnerable is not confined to (all) women as victims nor to (some) men as perpetrators. Parents use such threats against their children and adults use them against their elderly family members. It stretches the definition of “patriarchy” a little too much if we include the female perpetrators of these threats (and acts) of violence, doesn’t it? Likewise, do we conceptualize the spontaneous social habits engendered by prison rape as the patriarchy oppressing itself?

  10. Discussed at www.theartofthepossible.net

    The Little, Tumid Platoons @ The Art of the Possible:

    RadGeek has an excellent post about how some libertarians can be pretty sloppy in their discussions of “spontaneous order” while some radical feminists can be pretty precise about it. He goes so far as to argue that taking the concept of spontaneous order seriously is a hallmark of feminist theory. […]

  11. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2008-05-17 – Melissa Bruen, campus safety, and fighting back:

    […] order in the relationships between men and women. But those of you who have any questions about the Myrmidon theory — the view that men who commit random violence against women unintentionally serve as shock […]

  12. Nathaniel Tapley

    Thank you for this post. I thought it was excellent: thoughtful and refreshing.

  13. Discussed at praxeology.net

    The Machinery of Unfreedom @ Austro-Athenian Empire:

    […] Charles has an excellent post today on patriarchy, rape, and the distinction between voluntary and spontaneous orders – extending some of the themes of our libertarian feminism piece from 2004. […]

  14. Grant Gould

    Bravo. Bravo.

    You are doing the heavy lifting of rehabilitating radical feminism into the libertarian sphere, and it is appreciated.

  15. Rad Geek

    kipp,

    I’m sure that many people other than movement feminists have thought about these issues. But the important question is what they have made of those facts in their personal reflections (like, say, whether certain large-scale social phenomena having to do with the relations between men and women might be ripple effects of those diffuse constraints on women’s freedom), and whether they have integrated those reflections into their overall political outlook in some way that matters. (Even though male violence against women is one the most pervasive, most intense, and hardest to escape forms of systematic politically-motivated violence in the world at large, and in the United States in particular, and even though it has tremendous and terrible effects on women’s freedom in daily — or nightly — life, I can find very little discussion about it, or practical activism against it, in most self-identified libertarian or anarchist outlets. Why is that?

    I’d say because, while lots of self-identified libertarians and anarchists may have thought about it on a personal level, not nearly as many have recognized it as a political issue worthy of serious discussion and organized resistance. Probably in part because, depending as it does on an invisible-fist process carried out by many different men without central coordination, but on behalf of masculinity and male supremacy, rather than a well-organized, uniformed, centralized enemy which a libertarian or anarchist man can easily identify, dissociate himself from, and single out for condemnation. Patriarchy is a peg that doesn’t fit very well into the conceptual slots that radical men are familiar with in their thinking about political oppression and political opposition, so analysis and criticism of patriarchy tends to get ignored, or, when discussed, misunderstood and often unfairly dismissed.

    To push the metaphor to the breaking point, part of what I’m trying to do here is to get libertarians and anarchists to look more carefully at the board, and to see that the peg fits a slot which they already knew about, but which they were used to putting differently colored pegs into. Those who can understand the benign effects of certain kinds of nonviolent undesigned orders can use that understanding to help them better understand the malign effects of certain kinds of violent undesigned orders, and thus to better see what radical feminists like Brownmiller are on about.

    Random violence against the vulnerable (children, the disabled, the elderly) has a systematic effect on how we all interact in the world.

    Well, yeah; sure. But vulnerability and violence against the vulnerable are neither equally nor randomly distributed in actually existing societies. There are very distinct systematic class differences in terms of who is put in a vulnerable position and who faces violence — between adults and children, between men and women, between white people and people of color, between native-born people and immigrants, between straight people and gay people, etc. etc. etc. Some of these differences are partly rooted in unavoidable natural differences (like the obvious physical and mental advantages that adults have over young children), but most of them are also largely the results of law and custom (like raging homophobia, the legal privileges of parents to force unwilling children to stay under their custody, lynch law under Jim Crow, common rape myths that excuse rapists blame rape victims for what happened to them, etc. etc. etc.). Where they are substantially the result of unavoidable natural differences, it is still worth discussing what we might do to undermine those differences or ameliorate or contain their effects. Where they are substantially the result of law and custom, the class structure of vulnerability should be considered a political fact, subject to criticism and worthy of serious opposition.

    I’m not so sure I would want to frame these ideas so squarely inside the loaded framework of the evil patriarchy. The threat of violence against the vulnerable is not confined to (all) women as victims nor to (some) men as perpetrators.

    Well, O.K., but I don’t know how far this constitutes an objection to anything that I said. I never claimed (and don’t know of any radical feminist who has ever claimed) that patriarchy is the only system of oppression that exists today. Of course there are other systems of oppression, many of which are expressed (in part) in terms of threats of violence against those who have been made vulnerable. I think that violence by parents against their children is another; so is gay-bashing; so are a lot of other things.

    But patriarchy is one of those systems of oppression, and a very old, deep, stubborn, intense, and widely-experienced one, at that. In some sense, if you abstract away from the social and psychological facts that make women disproportionately vulnerable to rape, men disproportionately likely to commit it, and which motivate actually existing rapists to commit their crimes, you could lump it together with a bunch of other forms of oppression as part of some more generalized phenomenon (the fallen world, Homo Homini Lupus Est, or whatever), I’d say that the process of abstraction involves abstracting away from almost everything of political and sociological interest, and, in particular, makes it very tough to intelligently discuss what we ought to do to try to end it. If your goal is to try to stop all violence against the vulnerable, or all evil everywhere, that’s a laudable goal, but it’s very hard to know where to begin unless and until you get more specific. Unless you get down into some details about systematic forms of violence that you can identify, analyze, and target, it’s hard to know what you could do at all other than minister to the hurt and resign yourself to the suffering in this vale of tears. But if you are setting out to end some particular form of systematic violence, and you take into account the norms, institutions, attitudes, etc., which structure how the violence is committed, by whom, and against whom — e.g., rape, which men commit against women, and which is supported by a particular set of rape myths, a male-dominated culture that closely connects masculinity with violence and control over women, femininity with weakness, male sexuality with aggression, female sexuality with either submission or wantonness, etc. etc. etc., well, then, it becomes that much easier to see what you might start challenging, opposing, and trying to change.

    It stretches the definition of “patriarchy” a little too much if we include the female perpetrators of these threats (and acts) of violence, doesn’t it? Likewise, do we conceptualize the spontaneous social habits engendered by prison rape as the patriarchy oppressing itself?

    As I said, I don’t intend to include every form of violence under the heading of patriarchy. Just certain specific forms of prevalent, systemic, class-structured violence. Other forms of prevalent, systemic, class-structured violence, like the ones you mention, may not be expressions of patriarchy, but rather of other systems of oppression.

    For what it’s worth, though, the examples you mention are pretty clearly closely associated with, although not identical with, patriarchy. In the specific case of prison rape, the idea that fucking is a way of establishing a hierarchy of dominance has a very clear connection to the politics of male supremacy over women. So do the feminizing terms (bitch, etc.) used to refer to the men who are repeatedly raped by dominant men.

  16. Discussed at entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com

    Left libertarianism, race and gender « Entitled to an Opinion:

    […] then from race differences to gender differences, via TATP Charles “Rad Geek” Johnson points out the ambiguous nature of “spontaneous order”, which may mean either voluntary or […]

  17. Aster

    “…[Y]ou could lump it together with a bunch of other forms of oppression as part of some more generalized phenomenon (the fallen world, Homo Homini Lupus Est, or whatever)[.]”

    May I ask your opinion, specifically as a feminist, of the view of life and humanity expressed by phrases such as ‘the fallen world’ or ‘man is a wolf to man’?

  18. Sergio Méndez

    Charles:

    Excelent post. I wish my command of english language gave me the capacity to praise it as it deserves.

  19. Rad Geek

    Aster,

    I don’t have very strong opinions about the myth of the Fall per se. As a feminist, I do of course object to the notion that the Fall ought to be mythically blamed on the weakness or deceitfulness of women. In the hands of the Church Patriarchs that version of the myth has, at times, been incredibly toxic. I think that the myth of fallenness is useful for conveying the fact that this world we live in a marred world, a world which is not what it could be and ought to be, and in which we are not what we could be and ought to be. Also the fact that we live finite and fallible lives, within which limitation and tragedy (in the old Aristotelian sense) are real and present parts of the human condition. Not defining features; not the most important features, even; but real features, nevertheless, which it is dangerous, but sometimes tempting, to forget. On the other hand, it has real dangers which ought to be avoided; for example, the way in which it presents the healing of the world as if it were the recovery of a romanticized and mythical past, rather than an achievement of a never-yet-realized future.

    As for Homo Homini Lupus Est, I think that it’s mainly an excuse that powerful men use to abstract away from, and blank out, serious analysis of the dynamics of power and violence. It’s an accurate enough general description of how some people treat other people within the political context of inequality and oppression, but the problem is that it’s presented in a way which sidetracks any useful discussion of the particular factors that nourish and sustain the many particular forms of inequality and oppression that actually exist. Women aren’t attacked as human beings, but rather as women; people of color aren’t attacked as human beings, but rather as people of color; and there are specific cultural and material reasons for that, which are not inevitable, and which are proper objects of political analysis, criticism, and resistance.

    By abstracting from that, its common use takes the context of inequality and oppression for a given, as if it were a sorrowful fact of nature rather than the result of identifiable human choices and historical processes. In fact love, mercy, courage, peace, compassion, solidarity, cooperation, etc. are all as much a part of human potential as meanness, pettiness, arrogance, and violence; the question is whether the social political context is one of inequality or equality, authority or liberty, violence or peace. That is to say, whether you live in a community where cultivating the best parts of yourself is punished and the worst parts of yourself is rewarded; or a community where cultivating the best parts of yourself is rewarded, or at the very least left alone in peace.

    The interesting question about a chestnut like Homo homini lupus est is why, so to speak, certain groups of men are able to make sure that they more or less always appear in the nominative in that sentence, and other men, women, and children more or less always appear in the accusative. But those men who use that sentence are almost always using it specifically in order to head that kind of social inquiry off, or to make it seem irrelevant by changing the subject to some kind of ahistorical, quasi-theological, and ultimately useless reflection on the sins and sorrows of the human race.

  20. Rad Geek

    Dain,

    You’ve probably already seen this reply to your (similar, but extended) comments over at The Art of the Possible, but I’ll repost it here for the benefit of others:


    Dain,

    I don’t like being in either the position of being feared, or in the position of being depended on for protection, either.

    I don’t mean to suggest that male supremacy is all a bed of roses for men. Patriarchy Hurts Men Too (tm), and all that. But the reason I’m willing to endorse Brownmiller’s claim, that the threat of rape redounds to the benefit of men as a class, including (especially) those who don’t actually commit rape, isn’t because playing the role of a “protector” is supposed to be pleasant in itself. Truth be told, it is pleasant for many men, or at least ego-stroking, and a lot of men have historically been quite explicit in expressing how much emotional satisfaction they get from providing for and protecting their wife and children. But that’s not the main point here.

    The more important point has to do with ripple effects, and (1) the indirect payoffs that come from assuming the social role that men, as men, assume, as well as (2) the disadvantages that restricted mobility in physical space imposes on women, as women, vis-a-vis men.

    Taking (2) first, living with certain spaces or times closed off to you by the threat of physical violence, without being able to safely and comfortably walk through many public spaces in a big city, or in certain male-dominated spaces (certain kinds of workplaces, certain kinds of clubs and bars), or much of anywhere at night has direct effects on what you can and cannot realistically do with your time. The lack of freedom that comes from the realistic fear of rape, sexual harassment, and other forms of sexual aggression directly effects women’s ability to participate in civic life, in politics, and in certain kinds of work. It has direct effects on women’s prospects for business, on women’s prospects for work, on where and when and with whom they can socialize, and in any number of other ways on their economic, social, and political participation. It also has indirect ripple effects: the effects of living with constant warnings and a constant feeling of confinement, as well as the effects of having to find, please, and satisfy the Right Man in order to safely navigate everyday situations that most men have no worries about navigating. (It’s worth considering how much of stereotypical American femininity is linked, either directly or indirectly, with the threat of rape and with the need for male “protectors.”) That works to the systematic disadvantage of women, which means that it works to the systematic advantage of certain men who are, or would otherwise be, in competition for jobs, promotions, socio-political status, etc. (The connection between the traditional “protector” role and the traditional “provider” role for the male “head of household” is not accidental.)

    As for (1), those indirect payoffs have largely to do with the way in which women are socially expected to defer to men, both in public forums and in interpersonal relationships, and to focus on finding, pleasing and satisfying the Right Man. How women are expected act as sexual “gatekeepers” and not to be assertive about their own sexual desires, and to have a sexual experience more or less on the man’s terms. Also with corresponding, often subconscious entitlement that men have acted on and continue to act on. Expectations used to be very strong, and quite explicit in social norms; in these days — by which I mean the last 40 years or so; the change was very dramatic and quite recent, in the grand scheme of things — we have largely shifted towards unspoken, or covert versions of the same thing. But they are still there. If you see more or less what I’m talking about in your own life and the lives of people you know, then that’s what I’m trying to point out when I endorse Brownmiller’s claim that stranger-rape serves to promote male power and male privileges over women — even, or especially, the power and privileges of men who do not themselves commit rape. If you don’t see it, then I’ll just plead that I don’t have the talent or the space to really get you to see it within the space allowed by a blog post or a comments thread. What I’d want you to take away is an some idea, even if only in rough outline, of the kind of stuff I mean when I say that non-rapist men get concrete privileges out of the violent undesigned order that arises from the violence of male rapists against women. For a fuller and more convincing elaboration of the specifics, I’d just have to point you to extended treatments in the feminist literature, starting with Brownmiller’s book itself—which, after all, only had a few short summary paragraphs quoted and discussed in the course of my post—and with other work that discusses sexism in contemporary language, media, culture, sexuality, etc. My post wasn’t really intended to give you a full panoramic view of Brownmiller’s theory of rape, let alone her whole theory of patriarchy; my aim was just to help point certain of my readers towards the right lens to use when you try to get the view.

    I don’t know why this would be any more beneficial for males in general than would the negative actions of some blacks be beneficial to all blacks.

    This is really a separate issue. The reason that white stereotyping of black people as violent or criminal — and the fear that results — is harmful to black people is that that fear is projected onto all black people, and then used by politically and socially well-connected white people to justify individual practices and large-scale policies that hurt black people (e.g. economically deserting certain neighborhoods, or the racist War on Drug Users, or increasingly violent policing and punitive imprisonment). There’s no real equivalent in the situation between men and women as depicted by Brownmiller. Firstly because the fear is not universally projected onto all men, or at least not equally onto all men. (The key move in her theory has to do with men who are seen primarily as protectors, rather than as rapists.) Secondly, because the fear of rape is not usually used to justify increased violence against men as such. (After all, it’s men, not women, who have the advantage in terms of access to economic and political resources; so women’s response, by necessity, is to depend more upon the “good” men as a defense against the bad, rather than to push through policies and practices that punish the “good” men along with the bad.)

    Hope this helps.

  21. Jeremy

    I could not agree with your larger point about spontaneous order more. If the market (according to the agorists) is the sum of all voluntary interaction, still the set of involuntary interactions exert an influence and, to an extent, constrain the former set of actions. In that sense, every order is “spontaneous”; all obedience is voluntary (a la De La Boetie) . The question is whether that spontaneity arose from natural or contrived conditions.

    This is an extremely important argument for left libertarians. We can idolize “the market” and make it a good in and of itself, rather than understanding that the spontaneous ordering it represents is just a means to an end; it is not, itself, the end. The ground rules for society set by political bodies, social custom, external conditions, etc. do much to determine how that order will manifest.

    That is the great genius of corporate capitalism: benefiting from the informational and allocating features of a market while setting the rules so that only certain outcomes are likely. Of course, if we didn’t self-order to some extent, the entire system would fall apart. They need our buy-in in order for the system to function, but they need to maintain control of our expectations so that we only use the system in ways they allow.

    I think Brownmiller’s point is 100% true without necessarily being complete. People can threaten you, but they cannot make you afraid. Ultimately, a person has control over his or her own emotions. The idea that conditions “out there” have to change before I can be free or happy is the kernel of all oppression. All tyrants around the world could be deposed in a matter of days if people were only to release their fear and take control of their own expectations and values and lives.

    The weakest part of the leftist ideology - and I say this as a self-identified leftist - is its emphasis on victimhood. Oppressed people don’t revolt; fearful people don’t revolt. Only people who have decided to no longer be oppressed and afraid revolt. People who think their freedom is subject to others’ decisions will always see the manipulation of those others as their salvation. And so, the leftist tries to capture authority and turn it to his own ends out of fear, rather than abolishing authority out of a love for liberty.

  22. Jeremy

    BTW, I should say that one of the most frequent arguments I got into with my wife the first year we were dating was her outrage at my reluctance to walk her back to her dorm at night. I just didn’t understand the amount of vulnerability she felt. The protector role is not one that all men are eager to adopt, but it is important to understand the fear women have, if for no other reason than to better get along with them. That doesn’t make the fear justifiable, rational, or warranted - it does, however, explain it so that we can better understand how to help each other overcome our fear.

  23. Rad Geek

    Jeremy,

    Thank you for your kind words. I agree with you that many libertarians are operating with too naive an understanding of spontaneous order even when they apply it to the market; hence my interest in labor organizing, mutual aid, etc., my impatience with lazy apologetics for corporate capitalism, which has its own share of malign voluntary orders and invisible fist processes going on.

    I’m not sure what to make of your comments about fear.

    I think that women’s fear of rape is justifiable, rational, and warranted. Or, perhaps more to the point, I don’t think I have any business telling a woman who is afraid of rape anything about whether her fear is justifiable, rational, or warranted. What would I know about that? What I do know from the experience of my friends, and other women that I’ve tried to listen to, is that rape is a terrible thing, sometimes life-threatening, and it happens to a lot of women. For many women trying to ignore or suppress that fear is not an option.

    It’s true that resistance takes courage. But courage is mastery of fear, not insensitivity to fear; it consists in overcoming and appropriately channeling reasonable fears, not in trying to make yourself numb to them. And if you want to encourage people to resist more than they do, which is a perfectly noble aim, I don’t think you’re going to help that cause by trying to tell people that they don’t have a reason to feel vulnerable, afraid of what might happen to them, grief about what has happened to them, etc. Particularly not when you’re speaking from a position where you have the privilege of not facing that fear as part of your daily experience, while the people you’re addressing don’t have the same luxury.

  24. quasibill

    With respect to voluntary vs. spontaneous orders, I think you might be splitting hairs a bit too finely here. Compare your distinction to the argument that even coerced decisions are voluntary, as you always have the option of allowing yourself to be killed.

    From a strictly objective, definitional standpoint, the argument is true. But if we’re talking about ethical norms that most humans share, and the way people normally use the moral concepts involved, it is not true.

    I think the same can be said for your distinction of voluntary and spontaneous orders. In other words, as we all, thanks to Kevin, readily recognize now, it is dangerous to equate actually existing society to spontaneous in any meaningful way precisely because the state has intervened so extensively into everyone’s life.

    One counter-factual that springs off the top of my head are the many, many women I know who a) are unafraid despite past history just because they are generally confident in themselves; or b) or are unafraid because they could literally kill an untrained attacker in under a second - in a world where states, almost entirely dominated by males, have claimed territorial monopolies on security and law, these women can’t form their own societies, social aid societies, etc. One woman I know was threatened with prosecution by a local DA (at the behest of cops) if she formed her own guardian angel type group to patrol the streets near a local campus.

    I’m not claiming that absent the state, such societal norms wouldn’t exist; quite the contrary, I think there are quite a few problems whose genesis starts with social attitudes as opposed to the state. I’m just saying that it is dangerous to call anything that currently exists “spontaneous” given the pervasive nature of the state, and that includes social attitudes, such as patriarchy, rape culture, etc.

    Other than that, I second (third? twentieth?) the notion that this is an amazing explication on feminism in terms that libertarians can grok. I learned alot from it.

    Thank you.

  25. Jeremy

    I’m not sure what to make of your comments about fear.

    I’m a libertarian: as such, I’m required by law to find some flaw in your reasoning, no matter how insignificant or petty. :)

    I agree with your point about suppressing fear: the goal is to not act out of fear, not to simply sublimate and ignore it. So with that said,

    For many women trying to ignore or suppress that fear is not an option.

    Let me see if I understand you. Taking control of one’s own emotional well-being is not an option. But changing the entire society in which one lives, is. Is this what you’re saying? I’m honestly not trying to put words in your mouth, but this seems to be the implication of your statements.

    Nobody is saying women should not have the freedom to feel the way they feel. In fact, I think we’d have a very different world if people actually accepted and dealt with their emotions. The system excels at churning out people who are emotionally stunted and therefore, because they cannot feel deeply, they often cannot act out of a deep love, or deep compassion, or deep, well, anything.

    What I’m saying is that the way one feels is one of the limited things in this world that one has control over. None of us have control over mass society, and it’s absolutely anti-individualistic, in my opinion, to say that no woman can be free or happy or fearless until everything else changes. That’s the problem, as I see it: conflating individual healing and empowerment with external social change.

    And if you want to encourage people to resist more than they do, which is a perfectly noble aim, I don’t think you’re going to help that cause by trying to tell people that they don’t have a reason to feel vulnerable, afraid of what might happen to them, grief about what has happened to them, etc.

    True. As you put it, what do I know about that? By that rationale, why should encourage anybody to do anything?

    But I think there is great utility in reminding people that they have control over their own feelings and reactions to things, and that fear need not control them. You’re right: I don’t have any place to tell people how they should heal themselves psychologically and emotionally. But I do think that’s much more important than demanding that society change (if for no other reason than because society is composed of individuals who each have to change for society to change). We talk about this far too seldom in our movement because, like most movements, we see the world as the problem, not ourselves.

    I also think leftists don’t do these victims any service by telling them that they can’t be happy and secure until other people change. IMHO, that is the great problem with feminism and leftism in general, as practiced politically: it fetishizes victimhood. And so it is only natural for victims to seek justice and protection from institutions like the state, instead of healing themselves sufficiently to be able to promote true independence from authority.

  26. Rad Geek

    Jeremy:

    Let me see if I understand you. Taking control of one’s own emotional well-being is not an option. But changing the entire society in which one lives, is. Is this what you’re saying?

    No, I’m not saying that, or anything remotely like that.

    I’m saying that ignoring or suppressing the fear of rape is not taking control of one’s own emotional well-being.

    Fear as such is not an emotional defect. And a fearful situation is not made better by just ignoring or suppressing rational and appropriate fears.

    None of us have control over mass society, and it’s absolutely anti-individualistic, in my opinion, to say that no woman can be free or happy or fearless until everything else changes.

    The claim that no woman can be happy until rape is no longer a prevalent threat is a claim you’re attributing to me. It’s not a claim I ever made.

    The claim that no woman can be free until rape is no longer a prevalent threat is trivially true, if you’re using freedom to mean what most libertarians use it to mean, i.e. freedom from systematized coercion. Nobody at all can be free until they are no longer coerced by prevalent, systemic violence. People labeled crazy can never be free until coercive psychiatry is abolished; kids can never be free until child-beating and Fugitive Child Laws are abolished; you and I can never be free, ultimately, until the State as such is abolished; etc. etc. etc. That doesn’t mean that none of us can never live happy or fulfilling lives; it does mean that there are certain ways in which our lives are not as free as they might and ought to be. And certain things which we have every reason to be afraid of. There’s nothing wrong with being afraid of those things, because violence and coercion really are fearful, and it would be irrational to act as if they were not.

    Maybe you mean something different by the word free than what most libertarians mean. If so, then, given that I was using the libertarian usage in the discussion about the ways in which the fear of rape hinders women’s freedom, you’ll need to spell out what you do mean by free and how your remarks using it are responsive to the remarks I made using the libertarian usage of the term.

    As for fearless, I don’t know what you mean by that. If you mean a state of being literally without feelings of fear, then I have no idea whether or not any individual woman or man can achieve that when threatened with violence. Maybe so, maybe not; probably depends on the person. But why would they want to achieve that? Fear per se is not a defect.

    If you mean something more like what people usually mean by fearlessness — that is a form of courage, in which you feel fear but master it and act, in the face of fear, with a certain amount of serenity or resolve — then I never said that women cannot do that. I know of many radical feminists, in particular, who I would say exhibited that (just consider any Take Back The Night march). But that’s not the same thing as not feeling any fear. It’s certainly not the same thing as denying that fear is justifiable, rational, or warranted.

    By that rationale, why should encourage anybody to do anything?

    I don’t know what this has to do with anything that I said. Feeling vulnerable, being afraid, going through grief, etc. aren’t mutually exclusive with doing anything. Often they are part and parcel of what we do; sometimes of the most courageous and world-changing actions. (Think of Antigone. Think of the “Joe Hill” or the Letter from Birmingham Jail, which are suffused with grief. Think of the Mountaintop speech. Etc.) And actions that come from that place certainly do not always involve seeking protection from some more powerful authority. (“Joe Hill” called for workers organizing among themselves and fighting back. Antigone and King used their grief, and their fear, to act in direct defiance of the State.)

    If you want to encourage someone to do something, please do so. My concern here is that you not wave off women’s fear or grief about rape (1) as being less than justifiable, rational, or warranted, or (2) as something it’s necessary to dispense with for the sake of individual or social uplift. Claim (2) is just false. Claim (1) is incredibly presumptuous, and something you have no real-life basis for claiming to understand.

    But I do think that’s much more important than demanding that society change (if for no other reason than because society is composed of individuals who each have to change for society to change).

    Women are not the individuals that need to change in order to end the systematic threat of rape. Men are.

    There’s nothing wrong with women, singly or cooperatively, working to change themselves in various ways, either as a matter of personal well-being or as a matter of more effectively resisting patriarchy. That’s great; more power to them; movement feminism has done a lot towards creating new ideas and new spaces in which women can better heal, or better flourish.

    But the basic demands of feminism for change are not demands on women to change. They are demands on the men who oppress women. Rape is not the result of a problem with women; it’s the result of a problem with rapists. Men, not women, are the main people whose feelings, emotions, anxieties, anger, attitudes, reactions, etc. need to be subjected to scrutiny, and put under pressure to change.

  27. Jeremy

    I’m saying that ignoring or suppressing the fear of rape is not “taking control of one’s own emotional well-being”.

    OK, fair enough - I agree with you. So at what point does the fear of rape enter into the area of unreasonable fixation? Certainly we’ve established that I’m not a legitimate party to this conversation, as I am not a woman, or a rape victim, or an unconditional supporter of a particular agenda towards a less violent world for women, but it does puzzle me, even as an outsider: if too little fear is not a solution, is there perhaps an equally ineffective solution in excessive fear?

    Or maybe the solution is actually helping women deal with their fear so that they can act with the greatest degree of security and effective freedom. And maybe that freedom should be used, not to demand others should change, not to help us live more comfortably in a sadistic culture, but to compel them to change by refusing to cooperate with their behavior.

    The claim that no woman can be happy until rape is no longer a prevalent threat is a claim you’re attributing to me. It’s not a claim I ever made.

    You know, I would love your permission to talk about tangential and supplementary concepts, theses, and ideas without fear that you might interpret them as attributed to you or in direct reply to something you’ve written. I mean that sincerely; you seem hyper-sensitive to misattribution, and conversations that meander in the slightest from the topic you’ve established. I’d be grateful if you let me know how to proceed respectfully here, as I can tell from your responses that I’m transgressing terribly here.

    My concern here is that you not wave off women’s fear or grief about rape (1) as being less than justifiable, rational, or warranted, or (2) as something it’s necessary to dispense with for the sake of individual or social uplift. Claim (2) is just false. Claim (1) is incredibly presumptuous, and something you have no real-life basis for claiming to understand.

    I was probably imprecise with respect to emotional issues in my first comment. For the record, so we can put this counter-argument of yours to rest, I am not saying fear is bad. I am saying that it lies within the realm of possibility for an individual to choose how to deal with that fear, and that it’s possible to not let it dictate your life. It can be integrated and healed. It is not an external condition, the solution to which lies outside the individual. We choose how to respond to things - we may have behavioral patterns, but they are not insurmountable. I honestly don’t see how one can be an individualist if one believes that one is not in control of ones thoughts, feelings, expectations, and responses.

    Women are not the individuals that need to change in order to end the systematic threat of rape. Men are.

    If that is true, then why do women participate in activism in order to change the culture? Isn’t the change from not participating to participating a change they make themselves? Obviously, they are changing to respond to the situation. That’s good - they shouldn’t wait for men to change.

    I’m simply suggesting that they can change even further to effect even more radical change. But they can’t do this if they’re waiting on a group or an entire gender to act. They can only do it if they act themselves, if they change their own priorities and expectations and tolerances until they are willing to take the necessary steps. And that’s a change that only comes from within the individual. It’s a change that you’ll never hear any anti-rape group talk about, because it would make their group useless.

    Men, not women, are the main people whose feelings, emotions, anxieties, anger, attitudes, reactions, etc. need to be subjected to scrutiny, and put under pressure to change.

    If you presume that society exists as an entirely male operation, with no tacit consent from females. But that, of course, is absurd, and you would never presume that (before you claim I’m trying to attribute that presumption to you).

    Maybe you mean something different by the word free than what most libertarians mean.

    Perhaps.

  28. judgesnineteen

    Well Jeremy, since you know better than all the anti-rape activists, why don’t you tell me what exactly I should do?

  29. Discussed at highclearing.com

    Never Walk Alone § Unqualified Offerings:

    […] good Charles Johnson has written a lengthy entry explaining "rape culture" theory in libertarian terms. The piece also has general value as a caution against slippery and naive uses of the core Hayekian […]

  30. Aster

    Let me see if I can translate Jeremy’s position:

    “Women who are raped should suck it up and take it like men.”

  31. Discussed at delong.typepad.com

    A Spontaneous Order: Women and the Invisible Fist @ Grasping Reality with Both Hands: The Semi-Daily Journal Economist Brad DeLong:

    […] RadGeek produces what I can only call the intellectual love child of Susan Brownmiller and Friedrich Hayek. Extremely well done: Rad Geek People’s Daily 2008-05-16 – Women and the Invisible Fist […]

  32. Bryan

    While you’ve demonstrated that it is possible to make a feminist argument about the social effects of rape without suggesting any sort of wildly implausible conspiracy theories, it doesn’t seem like a “crude misunderstanding” of what Brownmiller actually says in the quoted text to see her as suggesting just such a conspiracy theory. The key word in the first quote is “consciously”. In the second quote, I would point out that she compares rapists to the myrmidons which, by her own account, were used by Achilles. The myrmidons were not independent actors whose actions just happened to benefit Achilles without consciously intending to so— they were the agents of his conscious plan.

  33. Rad Geek

    Jeremy,

    OK, fair enough - I agree with you. So at what point does the fear of rape enter into the area of unreasonable fixation? … if too little fear is not a solution, is there perhaps an equally ineffective solution in excessive fear?

    Courage is a mean between a vice of excess and a vice of defect, so presumably there is such a thing as being too afraid, or being afraid of the wrong things, or being afraid in the wrong way. But how much fear is too little, and how much is too much? I don’t know; don’t ask me. That sounds like a personal question that individual women have to judge for themselves while making their way through the world, not something I could pronounce a one-size-fits-all answer on.

    As for dealing with fear, sure, that’s great. Just remember that dealing with fear is not the same thing as ceasing to feel fear, and also that dealing with fear is someone that the person who is afraid has to do on her own. You can help, but you can’t do it for her, and you can’t get her to do it just by telling her that she ought to deal with it. Of course, if you want to get out there and do things (like providing emotional support, intervening against other men, volunteering money or labor to support events like Take Back The Night, etc.) to make it easier for individual women to have less fear, that’s great; more power to you.

    I honestly don’t see how one can be an individualist if one believes that one is not in control of ones thoughts, feelings, expectations, and responses.

    Well, O.K. But I don’t believe that, either. What I believe is that fear, like most other emotions, is a complex passionate response to external situations, and can be either apt, or inapt, depending on what the situation is. It can be encouraged, discouraged, unleashed, controlled, altered, channeled, etc., both by active habituation and by rational conscious effort. But the issue here has to do with whether the situation in question really is fearful — that is, really is the sort of situation to which fear would be an apt response — and if so, what someone in that situation should do with any fear that she reasonably feels. Fear itself is not an external condition, as you note, but external conditions can be fearful in relation to a particular person; that is, they can be the sort of situations in which you ought to feel fear. Stoic maxims like People can threaten you, but they cannot make you afraid seem to me to be missing the point: in some sense it’s true that it’s within your power to ignore or suppress your fears when other people have forced you into a genuinely fearful situation, but it’s not clear why you should want to cripple your own emotional faculties like that, any more than you should want to gouge out your own eyes.

    It seems that now you’ve shifted tack somewhat, to the claim that feminists writing or talking about rape should encourage women to deal with the fear of rape, in some sense, rather than just getting rid of it as unjustified. I don’t have any problem with exhorting women to resist, but you do need to be careful about doing so in a way that acknowledges the realities of the situation, and which offers a lesson by example and a helping hand rather than a stern lecture and a gut-check. Besides being cruel, that kind of approach is also just counter-productive.

    Me:

    Women are not the individuals that need to change in order to end the systematic threat of rape. Men are.

    Jeremy:

    If that is true, then why do women participate in activism in order to change the culture?

    Because as a matter of empirical fact it seems that men aren’t doing much to change on our own. So women are organizing and resisting rape as an instrumental means to the end of either persuading, or if necessary compelling, men to change as we ought. If it were possible for rape to end forever simply because all men choose not to do it, then there would be no need for women’s organizing and resisting.

    As I said in the last couple paragraphs of my earlier remark:

    There’s nothing wrong with women, singly or cooperatively, working to change themselves in various ways, either as a matter of personal well-being or as a matter of more effectively resisting patriarchy. That’s great; more power to them; movement feminism has done a lot towards creating new ideas and new spaces in which women can better heal, or better flourish.

    But the basic demands of feminism for change are not demands on women to change. They are demands on the men who oppress women.

    Jeremy:

    They can only do it if they act themselves, if they change their own priorities and expectations and tolerances until they are willing to take the necessary steps. And that’s a change that only comes from within the individual.

    Look, changing yourself as an individual is great and all, but I really don’t know what kind of concrete personal changes you are suggesting here as a means to reducing, containing, or eliminating the threat of rape. Could you explain in more detail?

    It’s a change that you’ll never hear any anti-rape group talk about, because it would make their group useless.

    I don’t want to be a dick about this, but anti-rape groups (I’m including both service outfits like rape crisis centers and activist outfits like radical feminist groups) are doing a lot of extremely important and incredibly exhausting work on the ground to undermine rape culture, to provide material resources for individual women to live more safely, and to help women who have survived all kinds of hell begin to recover and piece their lives back together. Certainly a lot more than I am, and probably a lot more than you are, too. The work that they do is never enough, because the groups are small and the problem is huge and incredibly difficult. And I’m sure that for any individual group there are some things they are doing that they shouldn’t, some things they aren’t doing that they should, and some real ways in which their overall approach is limited and limiting. If you want to make some concrete suggestions for improvement, or to lodge some concrete criticisms about the limits of particular groups or approaches, that’s fine; I certainly have plenty of things I could say along those lines, especially about professionalized medical and counseling service providers, if you want to discuss it. But the on-the-ground work that anti-rape groups do, anyway, every day, is nothing short of heroic (in the real sense, not in the LewRockwell.com any public statement or deed which I agree with sense), and you really should think twice before bad-mouthing the people who do that work or impugning their motives in this way.

    If you presume that society exists as an entirely male operation, with no tacit consent from females.

    I’m pretty sure that women don’t tacitly consent to the threat of rape.

    It’s certainly true that there are many things women could do, severally or cooperatively, which would probably have an impact on the overall threat of rape. (Taking women’s self-defense classes, for example. Or organizing, publicizing, and marching in Take Back The Night Marches. Or, or, or….) But those things aren’t matters of withdrawing consent from rape culture; rape culture is a violent undesigned order, with its base in the deliberate actions of men, which women never consented to to begin with. And when women adopt strategies other than constant confrontation and open defiance for surviving life in a rape culture, they usually have their own reasons for doing so, and the reasons are usually pretty good ones, given the circumstances. The primary problem to keep in your sights is the behavior of the people making the threats, not the behavior of the people getting threatened, and the primary solution has got to be to either get the people making the threats to change of their own accord, or else to neutralize their capacity to make the threat. If that involves the person being threatened making some other changes for the better in her own personal life, then that’s great; but it’s a means to the primary goal, not the goal itself.

    You know, I would love your permission to talk about tangential and supplementary concepts, theses, and ideas without fear that you might interpret them as attributed to you or in direct reply to something you’ve written. I mean that sincerely; you seem hyper-sensitive to misattribution, and conversations that meander in the slightest from the topic you’ve established. I’d be grateful if you let me know how to proceed respectfully here, as I can tell from your responses that I’m transgressing terribly here.

    I don’t mind supplementary conversations or discussions that go off on tangents. However, I don’t like to feel like words are being put in my mouth, and especially not when it comes to discussions about radical feminism, because my experience is that radical feminism has often been refused a serious hearing because critics (mostly, but not exclusively, male critics) simply don’t exercise the necessary care or charity to get clear on what positions are, and what positions are not, being argued. I also don’t mind — I even relish — tangents, but I really don’t like to see a more or less subtle change of subject being confused for a direct response. Side-trips are great, but only as long as you don’t forget that you’re no longer on the main road. In discussions about radical feminism, comment threads tend to get derailed and it’s often the case that critics don’t ever come around to saying much of anything at all that responds to the original claim. Hence, due to the topic and how I have seen that topic treated in the past, I do tend to be more demanding than I might otherwise be about charity and precision in interpreting claims, and in shepherding the thread of the conversation.

    If you want to discuss something tangential to the conversation, feel free, but I would ask that you clearly note that you’re going off on a tangent rather than trying to respond to the main point. If you want to condemn a view that nobody has yet expressed in the thread, then I would ask that you make clear you’re not attributing that view to anyone in the thread, or, better yet, give some specific details about who you are attributing to. If you’re not sure whether or not to attribute a view to me (or Brownmiller, or whoever), based on what’s been said so far, I’d just ask that you ask (straightforwardly and non-rhetorically) whether or not that’s my view. If you think that something is implied by view, which I have not yet stated as my view, then give me an argument to show me how you derived one from the other, and the discussion can proceed more fruitfully from that argument.

    I don’t want to be a hard-ass here, but I am always impatient with arguments where a lot of rhetorical firepower is targeted at a strawman of a position, or worse, unleashed indiscriminately on several different positions, which may or may not include the real position under debate, all without making it clear which shots are being aimed at what. It’s a much bigger deal to me in this conversation than in some other conversations, because I’ve noticed it happening a lot where feminism and, in particular, feminist claims about violence against women, are the topic. Just so we’re clear, I’m not accusing you of doing that, on any large scale, but that is why I’m being a stickler about things like misattribution of positions or more or less subtle changes of subject: because I want to encourage a high standard as far as those are concerned, and to head off certain conversational dynamics before they get much of a start.

    Hope this helps.

  34. Rad Geek

    Bryan:

    … it doesn’t seem like a crude misunderstanding of what Brownmiller actually says in the quoted text to see her as suggesting just such a conspiracy theory.

    Well, I think that it is clearly a misunderstanding; how crude a misunderstanding it is is better appreciated by thinking through the relation between the two quoted passages, and by reading the book in its entirety. (And I should say that any misunderstanding which could easily be dispelled by reading the passage in the context of the rest of the book, instead of just trying to puzzle it out from a select few sentences at the end of the first chapter, is therefore a crude misunderstanding; part of what you need to do not to be crude in your misunderstandings is putting in the effort to do the necessary background reading.)

    It’s also important to keep principles of interpretive charity in mind here. If there are two possible readings of a text, one of which involves a position that’s plausible enough as it goes and the other of which involves a position wildly implausible, then, all other things being equal, you generally ought to give your interlocutor the benefit of the doubt and deal mainly in interpretation that grants your interlocutor the stronger argument or the more plausible position, rather than the weaker argument or the less plausible position.

    The key word in the first quote is consciously.

    Well, what she says is that rape is a conscious process of intimidation, by which all men keep all women in a state of fear. But Brownmiller doesn’t directly say who is doing the conscious intimidation in that sentence. Many people who mischaracterize Brownmiller’s views treat all men as if it were obviously the subject of the entire sentence. It’s not. In a conscious process of intimidation, presumably the person who would be either conscious or unconscious is the intimidator, which in this case means the rapist. We know from elsewhere in the book (especially the passages on the Myrmidon theory) that Brownmiller isn’t claiming that all men are rapists (after all, part of what she’s explicitly interested in analyzing is how the actions of men who rape affect the status of women vis-a-vis men who do not rape). So we don’t yet have any reason to believe that Brownmiller is claiming that anyone other than the rapist alone is consciously intending to intimidate women (maybe all women as such; maybe some group of women; maybe the one particular woman he has targeted for attack; Brownmiller doesn’t make it explicit which, and not much turns on it in this discussion). Which is true enough; if he weren’t intending to intimidate, he wouldn’t be a rapist.

    So then what’s the function of that clause about by which all men keep all women in a state of fear, if not to say that all men are somehow consciously trying to intimidate women? Well, again, looking at the rest of the book, and especially the passages on the Myrmidon theory, one interpretation that suggests itself is that Brownmiller is making a statement in that clause about the political effects of rape — that all women are kept in a state of fear by all mean, as an effect of the conscious process of intimidation carried out by some but not all men—an effect which not all of the men in question, or perhaps even none of the men in question, may have consciously intended.

    If Brownmiller doesn’t mean to use the word conscious to suggest conscious intent by all men to keep all women in a state of fear, but only to say that rapists consciously intend to intimidate women, then why include the word at all? Can’t it just be taken for granted? Well, no, it can’t be. I’d argue that Brownmiller includes the word conscious because it has to do with a distinct claim made in the book, which is not directly discussed in this post — that rapists are motivated in part by the desire to intimidate and control women, not just by some uncontrollable lust or the lack of consensual sexual outlets.

    In the second quote, I would point out that she compares rapists to the myrmidons which, by her own account, were used by Achilles. The myrmidons were not independent actors whose actions just happened to benefit Achilles without consciously intending to so— they were the agents of his conscious plan.

    Well, sure, but metaphors are rarely meant to, and anyway almost never manage to, capture every last detail of the situation with complete precision and accuracy. As people who are familiar with writing on spontaneous orders, evolutionary processes, and self-organizing systems know, it’s often necessary to write *as if* you were describing deliberate actions, conscious purposes or perceived interests, in order to give a compelling picture of the interplay of unconscious processes and functional roles in a system with not-consciously-intended results. Here, in the Myrmidon metaphor, the counterpart of Achilles isn’t some particular man or some organized group of men, who might be said to have conscious desires, plans, and intentions; it’s, first, the unorganized mass of all men, or, second, the abstract entity of the cause of male dominance. I don’t think there’s much of a compelling reason to take the metaphor as somehow claiming that all men are actually united by a common plan to use police-blotter rapists as Myrmidons, or that the cause of male dominance is a plan centrally promulgated by some coordinated body. Moreover, Brownmiller quite explicitly states: Myrmidons to the cause of male dominance, police-blotter rapists have performed their duty well, so well in fact that the true meaning of their act has largely gone unnoticed. I don’t know how you could reconcile the boldfaced clause with any kind of conspiracy-theory interpretation; if there were some kind of big conscious plan for male dominance being handed down to the police-blotter rapists, then presumably the Patriarchs would already be consciously aware of the plan, and thus of the true meaning of the police-blotter rapists’ acts. (Brownmiller’s pretty clear that the writers and critics who have mistaken the meaning of police-blotter rapists’ acts are very largely composed of men, and often rather overtly sexist men, at that.) In order to take the boldfaced clause seriously, we would have to give up on the idea that police-blotter rapists are being used to further a conscious plan in the way that the Myrmidons are; rather, they serve their function in an undesigned order, whether or not anybody knows or plans that their actions will serve it.

  35. Rad Geek

    quasibill,

    Thank you very much for your kind words, and for your reply.

    In other words, as we all, thanks to Kevin, readily recognize now, it is dangerous to equate actually existing society to spontaneous in any meaningful way precisely because the state has intervened so extensively into everyone’s life.

    To a great extent I agree with this, but what I’d want to stress is just that the issue here does just turn on what you mean by spontaneous. If spontaneous means voluntary, then it’s true that there are virtually no orders at all in this society which are fully voluntary orders, at least not on any large scale, due to the way in which both State violence and diffuse freelance violence pervade almost every aspect of everyday life, either directly, or else through their rippling effects.

    But if spontaneous means undesigned, then I’d say that there are lots of actually-existing large-scale orders which are unintended consequences of dispersed action that was carried out from a bunch of different motives and not from a conscious plan to bring about that social result. The wrinkle that I’d want to add is that that kind of order may be the result of dispersed voluntary action; or it may be the result, in part, of dispersed coercion, or dispersed responses to coercion. The invisible fist process by which the fact of rape produces rape culture is one example. But another example is precisely the sort of economic ripple-effects from coercion that Kevin, for one, has done such a good job of explaining. For example, the kind of anti-poor government economic regimentation that I talk about in Scratching By tends to produce entrenched, ghettoized urban poverty, in the form that we know it, as an unintended consequence of a lot of little, interlocking coercive policies, some of which were crafted more or less as deliberate screwjobs against poor people or deliberate direct attacks on their survival strategies, but most of which (building codes, government seizure of abandoned lots, that sort of thing) were mainly intended to accomplish something else, which had little directly to do with poor people’s survival strategies. That they lock together to create geographically confining forms of concentrated, despairing, dependent, long-term poverty, to make poor people extremely vulnerable to sharp dealing by landlords or bosses, etc. etc. etc. was not part of anybody’s rationally constructed plan; it’s an order that arose spontaneously (meaning undesignedly) from the way in which all those different regulations interact with each other, and the way in which poor people and privileged people each react to the material predicament in which those interlocking regulations place them. So what you have is an order that’s not at all spontaneous, in one sense (it’s so shot through with coercion that I would say that the coercion is the defining feature of the situation), but entirely spontaneous in another (in that it’s the unintended result of dispersed interactions rather than the object of a conscious plan).

    The other part of the reason for stressing the distinction, which I didn’t get to in this post, but which Roderick and I briefly mentioned in the old Libertarian Feminism essay, is that when libertarians conflate voluntary orders with undesigned orders, they tend to be too quick to treat efforts to change society through conscious planning and coordination (that is, through a designed order) as if they were necessarily malign, or even necessarily coercive. But if you make the distinctions that need to be made, it should be clear that it’s perfectly possible to endorse a planned voluntary order without the planned order involving anything that should merit condemnation from libertarians. That’s important when it comes to understanding conscious efforts to ameliorate or rub out nasty social conditions, possibly including nasty social conditions that resulted from malign unplanned orders — for example, by organizing labor unions or feminist activist groups, which try to undermine or undo the effects of state capitalism and rape culture respectively, by means of conscious activism, planned strikes and boycotts, etc.

  36. Jay

    I think your focus is unduly narrow. Men are also threatened by violence, and are also offered the protection of the dubiously trustworthy. Much of the fear of prison in the male population is the fear of rape. I suspect that you are describing a feature of the human condition more than a particular feature of sexual politics.

  37. Jeremy

    Just remember that dealing with fear is not the same thing as ceasing to feel fear, and also that dealing with fear is someone that the person who is afraid has to do on her own.

    I agree 200%. Of course I don’t have the one-size-fits-all solution (note to judgesnineteen: nobody does). But what is it about an institution that signifies they have “the” solution? Because they have a fancy logo and a mission statement? Because they’re trying - really hard?

    BTW, I don’t mean to knock people who are helping, including people who work within organizations to promote education and help victims. Good deeds are good deeds; results are results. But I chafe considerably at the notion that a person can’t have a one-size-fits-all solution, but an institution can. What if nobody knows what the final solution is to these problems? And if nobody knows - whether or not they align themselves with a group agenda - then how do we effect political change without promoting incomplete solutions?

    Look, changing yourself as an individual is great and all, but I really don’t know what kind of concrete personal changes you are suggesting here as a means to reducing, containing, or eliminating the threat of rape. Could you explain in more detail?

    Sigh. Of course, they have to be concrete, specific suggestions. Otherwise, a person would have to do their own self-analysis, make their own judgements, and execute their own actions. How can an individual possibly do that without the comfort of a group identity or cozy ideology that answers all their questions and gives them step-by-step instructions to being happy and effective? It’s all so vague and unpragmatic, isn’t it?

    Look, I know I”m taking this conversation in a totally different direction than you intended, and I’m probably not arguing my strongest case for what I do care about because I’m trying to fit it into the context of what you care about. I think I’ll take this onto my blog where I can be more direct and precise. Thanks for your patience with me.

    Sorry for killing any sacred cows here; I was hungry.

    Let me see if I can translate Jeremy’s position: “Women who are raped should suck it up and take it like men.”

    I’m sure debating the made-up version of me who concocted that statement will be a lot easier than debating me. Have a blast.

  38. Chris E

    Further to Jay’s point - you have to include in your analysis that the section of society most likely to be the victim of violence are young men.

  39. Jeremy

    One more thing that is topical, I promise.

    And when women adopt strategies other than constant confrontation and open defiance for surviving life in a rape culture, they usually have their own reasons for doing so, and the reasons are usually pretty good ones, given the circumstances.

    Well, whether or not they are good reasons isn’t for you or I to say. In the end, they may not be good reasons. In fact, they may be reasons which account for the perpetuation of this unacceptable culture (this is where I was going with the “tacit consent” route).

    Who knows? Not me. All I have is opinions, arbitrary premises, and tentative conclusions. There is no reason anybody should listen to me.

  40. Rad Geek

    Jay:

    I think your focus is unduly narrow. Men are also threatened by violence, and are also offered the protection of the dubiously trustworthy.

    Well, yes, and I’ve written about this quite a bit elsewhere. (See, for example, GT 2004-11-30: Condoleezza’s Right, these comments on GT 2008-02-05: Rapists in Uniform, GT 2008-02-18: Cops are here to protect you., etc.) But let me repeat what I said above in my reply to kipp:

    Well, yeah; sure. But vulnerability and violence against the vulnerable are neither equally nor randomly distributed in actually existing societies. There are very distinct systematic class differences in terms of who is put in a vulnerable position and who faces violence — between adults and children, between men and women, between white people and people of color, between native-born people and immigrants, between straight people and gay people, etc. etc. etc.

    […] I don’t know how far this constitutes an objection to anything that I said. I never claimed (and don’t know of any radical feminist who has ever claimed) that patriarchy is the only system of oppression that exists today. Of course there are other systems of oppression, many of which are expressed (in part) in terms of threats of violence against those who have been made vulnerable. […] But patriarchy is one of those systems of oppression, and a very old, deep, stubborn, intense, and widely-experienced one, at that. In some sense, if you abstract away from the social and psychological facts that make women disproportionately vulnerable to rape, men disproportionately likely to commit it, and which motivate actually existing rapists to commit their crimes, you could lump it together with a bunch of other forms of oppression as part of some more generalized phenomenon (the fallen world, Homo Homini Lupus Est, or whatever), I’d say that the process of abstraction involves abstracting away from almost everything of political and sociological interest, and, in particular, makes it very tough to intelligently discuss what we ought to do to try to end it. If your goal is to try to stop all violence against the vulnerable, or all evil everywhere, that’s a laudable goal, but it’s very hard to know where to begin unless and until you get more specific. Unless you get down into some details about systematic forms of violence that you can identify, analyze, and target, it’s hard to know what you could do at all other than minister to the hurt and resign yourself to the suffering in this vale of tears. But if you are setting out to end some particular form of systematic violence, and you take into account the norms, institutions, attitudes, etc., which structure how the violence is committed, by whom, and against whom — e.g., rape, which men commit against women, and which is supported by a particular set of rape myths, a male-dominated culture that closely connects masculinity with violence and control over women, femininity with weakness, male sexuality with aggression, female sexuality with either submission or wantonness, etc. etc. etc., well, then, it becomes that much easier to see what you might start challenging, opposing, and trying to change.

    Does that help clarify?

    Chris E.:

    Further to Jay’s point - you have to include in your analysis that the section of society most likely to be the victim of violence are young men.

    Well, this post is about rape specifically (indeed, about a specific form of rape: acts of rape committed against randomly or opportunistically targeted strangers), not about violence in general. All too many men have been victims of rape, but the overwhelming majority of rape victims, and especially victims of stranger-rape, are women.

    If you want to discuss violence in general, we can, but I don’t see how that rules out the importance of discussing the political and sociological effects of sexual violence specifically, or undermines the explanation of rape as a contributing cause of power imbalances between men and women.

    If you do want to talk about gender and sexual politics in relation to violence more generally, then, sure, you have to keep in mind that the numerical majority of victims of violence are male. But you also have to keep in mind that (1) the kinds and degrees of violence that young men are most often subjected to are rather different from the kinds of violence that women are most often subjected to. Also (2) that the section of society most likely to be the perpetrators of violence are also young men; a fact which I’d say is non-accidentally connected with patriarchy and with the ideal of masculinity that men in patriarchal societies encourage or intimidate each other into pursuing.

  41. Jesse

    What’s the point? Men should stop raping? Good point; I agree. Good luck with that.

    Getting rid of state oppression would get rid of restrictions on guns, alway’s a girl’s best friend when it comes to the natural size and strength differences between her and the other half of the species. A woman can pull a trigger almost as well as a man. Even if a man still has a slight edge, what a well-armed populace of women creates is an environment of extreme lethality for any man that fancies himself an aggressor. Thus, your concern about spontaneous order is in part addressed, and lack of government shown sufficient to deal with, as much as it can be, the issue of “patriarchy”.

    Clearly, after all, the constant threat against women creates a demand for protection. Because of the difficulties inherent, and the false expectation of the protection of law, people, including women, tend not to arm themselves. Remove the state, and both these factors disappear.

    The people who complain about the “safety rules” of “patriarchy” are living in la la land. If you ever expect to be able to rely on the decisions of the general other to protect you from violence, you are a fool. You are ultimately responsible for your own protection and, fortunately, the tools to protect yourself in a way nearly equal to men are available to women in a way unprecidented in history.

    Mayhap an invisible fist has formed patriarchal societies in an unplanned and natural fashion. To the degree that is true, I doubt much could be done. Let us rejoice, then, for the gun has the potential to form societies of much greater sexual equality in an unplanned and natural fashion.

  42. Rad Geek

    Jesse,

    The point is to get clear (1) on the concept of spontaneous order, (2) on Susan Brownmiller’s theory of the role of stranger-rape in patriarchal society, and (3) ways in which the latter might be sympathetically understood by people who understand something about the former. It’s an intellectual exercise the effects of the threat of rape, not an attempt to offer either strategy or personal advice about reducing or ending it.

    If you want to know more about what I think ought to be done about it, you might start with my essay (co-authored with Roderick Long) on libertarian feminism, which discusses in outline some non-state, voluntary forms of feminist activism. Or you might go directly to feminist anti-rape writing and activism — for example, the closing chapters of Brownmiller’s book, or the closing chapters of Robin Warshaw’s book I Never Called It Rape, or Transforming A Rape Culture, or John Stoltenberg’s Refusing To Be A Man, or local groups in your area which provide rape crisis counseling or women’s self-defense training or activism against sexual violence (for example, Clothesline Projects, Take Back The Night marches, etc.). Read or talk about what people are already doing, and do your best to listen carefully to what they are suggesting. No doubt there will be plenty along the way you disagree with, but that’s O.K.; nobody in a broad movement is going to agree with everything that everybody else is doing. And it’s a place to start, from which you can choose what you like best and move forward.

    If you ever expect to be able to rely on the decisions of the general other to protect you from violence, you are a fool.

    Look, I am all for people taking as active a role as they can in their own self-defense, but this is awfully facile thing to say, and amounts to little more than victim-blaming. Rape is a problem because of men’s decisions and men’s problems, not women’s decisions or women’s problems, and while I think that forceful self-defense against would-be rapists is a fine idea, many women have any number of perfectly good reasons of their own not to choose that strategy. Nor should they have to choose that strategy, or be sneered at as foolish for not doing so. I don’t pack heat every time I go into a place or a situation where I might not feel entirely safe. Do you?

    As for the rest, well, I’m an anarchist. You don’t have to convince me of the merits of women arming themselves, if they so choose, or of the evils of government gun control, or of the desirability of bottom-up, voluntary, non-state methods of bringing about social change. I agree with all that, as far as it goes.

  43. LadyVetinari

    Rad Geek, thanks for this.

    Of course, they have to be concrete, specific suggestions. Otherwise, a person would have to do their own self-analysis, make their own judgements, and execute their own actions. How can an individual possibly do that without the comfort of a group identity or cozy ideology that answers all their questions and gives them step-by-step instructions to being happy and effective? It’s all so vague and unpragmatic, isn’t it?

    Oh, PLEASE.

    Look, Jeremy, you can do one of two things and be intellectually honest:

    (1) Cease lecturing people on how they should “deal with their fear,” as that is their own private emotional business, or

    (2) Lecture people on “dealing with their fear,” but also provide concrete explanations on what exactly you mean by that.

    Here’s what you can’t do and remain intellectually respectable: (3)Lecture people on how they should Deal With Their Fear, but refuse to provide any suggestions on the grounds that they are individuals who do not need your advice or lecturing.

    If you can’t see the problem with this, then Aster probably had the measure of you. Other people’s emotional problems are their own business, but if you are going to comment on them, your comments ought to be productive. If they’re not, you’re just being a blowhard.

    As for your ludicrous charge that anti-rape groups don’t teach women how to deal with their fear: they helped me with that, and plenty of other women as well. Believe it or not, talking things through in groups with other people actually helps. Being a Lone Individual dealing with your fear of rape all by yourself is not that effective. Sharing stories and tactics and strategies with others is. You really can’t go around accusing activists of running a pyramid scheme without actual evidence. And in this case, there is none. There is, in fact, mountains of evidence to the contrary. Most anti-rape groups run self-defense classes, for instance.

  44. Discussed at www.theartofthepossible.net

    The Art of the Possible » Blog Archive » If a woman can do it…:

    […] a different topic, Jim Henley has already linked to the post by RadGeek, wherein RadGeek makes a point about how our social order is partly shaped by the threat of male […]

  45. Rad Geek

    Me:

    Just remember that dealing with fear is not the same thing as ceasing to feel fear, and also that dealing with fear is someone that the person who is afraid has to do on her own.

    Jeremy:

    I agree 200%. Of course I don’t have the one-size-fits-all solution (note to judgesnineteen: nobody does). But what is it about an institution that signifies they have the solution? Because they have a fancy logo and a mission statement? Because they’re trying - really hard?

    I don’t think I claimed that any institution has the solution, or a one-size-fits-all solution, to the question of how best to deal with fear, or with violence against women broadly in general. There are lots of different little groups doing lots of different things — rape crisis counseling, long-term therapy, medical services, victim advocacy, women’s self-defense training (sometimes with weapons, often with mixed martial arts), activism for better institutional policies (e.g. in Universities), activism for better resources (e.g. walking escorts, better lighting, etc.), male peer education, public awareness and education events on rape per se, and on rape culture more broadly, Take Back The Night marches, Clothesline Projects, etc. etc. etc. I don’t think there’s any one thing that works for everybody or does everything that needs to be done. Each of these has both benefits and limitations, neither of which should be forgotten.

    The reason I suggested, over in the discussion about what happened to Melissa Bruen, that you start out by going to anti-rape groups in order to find out what to do, is because, generally speaking, if you want to do something about problem X, the first place you should start looking is at what people who are already working on problem X are already doing. Neither the anti-rape movement nor any group within the anti-rape movement are perfect, and none of us are doing everything that needs to be done. (Obviously: women are still being raped.)

    But you’ll get a lot more done by finding people in your neck of the woods who are really working on this stuff on a day-to-day basis, and finding out what they’re doing, and thinking seriously about what the benefits are and what the limitations are, than by trying to come up with a solution out of thin air from first principles, or by asking someone like me, a dude on the Internet who’s done some research and writing, and has been involved in anti-rape groups in the past, but who is not currently heavily involved on a day-to-day basis as anything more than a writer and a commentator.

    What if nobody knows what the final solution is to these problems? And if nobody knows - whether or not they align themselves with a group agenda - then how do we effect political change without promoting incomplete solutions?

    I’d suggest starting with the incomplete solutions, and working your way up towards a complete solution. Maybe that will involve trying some things out for a while and then abandoning them; but even incomplete solutions are rarely complete wastes of your time, and good organizing and activism are a matter of learning on the job, and the best place to start is usually with people who already have a lot of experience and have spent a lot of time thinking about it.

    LadyVetinari,

    Thank you.

  46. freeman

    @Charles:

    Thanks for writing this important entry. There are many issues where a fresh libertarian voice is needed, as opposed to the stale opinions of libertarians who think that everything begins and ends with Mises, Rothbard, etc. Feminist concerns are absolutely one of these issues. I’ll have to put Brownmiller’s Against Our Will on my “to read” list.

    @Jeremy:

    I generally agree with your analysis on most issues, particularly in relation to the makeup and role of modern institutions. On this issue, however, I feel as if you’re being rather uncharitable and unfair to the many diverse anti-rape groups. Do you have any sort of personal experience with any such group, or are your feelings here merely a reflection of your views toward most activist groups in general today, particularly those of a more institutional, self-serving manner?

    There are many groups out there doing good things, even though none of them may be perfect and certainly don’t have all the answers. You bring up valuable points about many organizations and institutions in a general sense, but I just don’t see how applicable such analysis is in relation to anti-rape groups in particular. If this thread were about certain other forms of activism (many cancer groups, for example), I’d be much more inclined to side with you. I have extremely little knowledge and experience with anti-rape activism, but what I have experienced seems more genuine and helpful to me, despite whatever shortcomings such groups may or may not have.

    @Aster:

    Knock it off!

    It seems to me as if you’re doing nothing more than dragging your ridiculous, ignorant and abusive personal vendetta against Jeremy outside of your salon and into a more public venue. You clearly seem incapable and/or unwilling to address the actually existing Jeremy, preferring to exploit your army of strawpeople instead, as you routinely did in your salon. I lost most of the respect I had for you at that time, and this most recent horseshit of yours only reinforces my disgust.

    Why do so many people insist on mocking or abusing those they don’t understand?

  47. Stella Omega

    Charles, thank you for an extraordinarily insightful essay, and the extraordinarily insightful conversation that follows it. It is a model of debate, too— your control over the tangents that you choose to follow or not is inspirational. I will be following your blog from now on, I think— just to learn how.

    I once took the “are you a libertarian” test, and came up nearly a libertarian. My main point of separation was in the matters of equal rights measures. Minority groups do not have the luxury of declaring themselves “Free” and “Equal.” What ought to be is not congruent with what is.

  48. Rad Geek

    freeman,

    Thank you for your kind words about the post.

    Concerning Aster’s comments—whoa, heel those dogs a bit. I think she has good reason to be angry at some of the things Jeremy said above, especially in the earlier part of the thread. But, moreover, if you think that she is being uncharitable to Jeremy or attacking a strawman, I don’t think that this kind of personally-targeted counter-attack is going to do much of anything to improve the situation.

    Stella,

    Thank you for the very kind words. I’m glad you found the essay and discussion useful.

    I sympathize with your worries about repealing antidiscrimination laws, and I certainly believe that oppressed, exploited, and otherwise marginalized people are hurt by pervasive systems of discrimination and oppression in this society, and that people who are in liberation movements should side with them, not with the powerful and well-connected. But I don’t really trust the government, which is run more or less entirely by those powerful and well-connected people, to do much of anything to remedy the situation on a fundamental level, and I’m not really very convinced that a sclerotic, politically-appointed body of bureaucrats like the EEOC offers much in the way of real opportunities for change, especially not when compared with grassroots, people-power tactics like strikes, boycotts, sit-ins, and other forms of nonviolent civil disobedience and direct action. I don’t know whether you’ve seen it yet or not, but if you’re interested I’ve also discussed some related issues at length in an essay that I co-wrote with Roderick Long called Libertarian Feminism: Can This Marriage Be Saved? which discusses my take on anti-statist radical feminism at some greater length, and also GT 2007-01-22: Roe v. Wade Day #34, which spends some time talking about anti-state forms of resistance practiced by radical feminists in Chicago (specifically on the issue of abortion), which I take as something of a model and an inspiration for what we should be doing, going forward from here.

  49. freeman

    You’re right. My comments weren’t very constructive. Given her treatment of Jeremy in her salon, her comment here seemed to me more motivated by a personal vendetta as opposed to honestly contributing to the debate here, and that ticked me off. Sorry about that.

  50. Stella Omega

    Jeremy! I will refrain from personal speculation based on what I’ve read here. But he does serve to prove a point; way up there, Jeremy says;

    OK, fair enough - I agree with you. So at what point does the fear of rape enter into the area of unreasonable fixation? Certainly we’ve established that I’m not a legitimate party to this conversation, as I am not a woman, or a rape victim, or an unconditional supporter of a particular agenda towards a less violent world for women, but it does puzzle me, even as an outsider: if too little fear is not a solution, is there perhaps an equally ineffective solution in excessive fear?

    Or maybe the solution is actually helping women deal with their fear so that they can act with the greatest degree of security and effective freedom. And maybe that freedom should be used, not to demand others should change, not to help us live more comfortably in a sadistic culture, but to compel them to change by refusing to cooperate with their behavior.

    In other words, Jeremy’s brand of libertarianism means that the onus is on the oppressed to refuse to cooperate with their oppressors. The not-so-oppressive subset of oppressors will be pleased to stand by and applaud— and offer advice once in a while— as long as we are not scaredy-cats and pussies about it.

    My experience tells me that far too many Libertarian men think the way Jeremy seems to. And that far too many white Libertarians of both sexes think the way Jeremy does, as well— What isn’t a problem for them should not be a problem for anyone, because they say so. And if a group cannot get out of the margin it must be their own damn fault.

    In fact, Charles, you might be the first Libertarian I have ever come across who is willing to address these very real problems in any sort of frank way— and here you are claiming radicalism!

    I have just read your second link. It’s quite the history lesson. Once again, I am impressed and energised by your eloquence.

  51. Aster

    Dain-

    Jeremy’s words here would have left me blindingly furious even if I’d never previously met the gentleman. This does have something to do with the previous debate on the salon- a very great deal, in fact. But not the way you think.

    I personally suggest that you save your strong language for someone more likely to be concerned of your good opinion. I know what I admire in the world and where my interests lie, and there simply isn’t going to be a meeting ground between myself and many others. When people say and do things that will logically result in a world which I don’t want to live in, I am not going to smile and amicably ignore this fact. There are things in this world I cannot be nice to- and ultimately those things reduce to ways of thinking with unspeakably horrific consequences. This attitude towards rape is merely one abominably literal example.

    If you don’t see that in Jeremy’s way of thinking, I’m sorry. I do. And it’s precisely because libertarianism expects me to just sit politely by while it tears down the modern liberal institutions which make any life for me possible that I closed my salon and have broken with any form of libertarianism.

    Now watch me go vote for more extensive anti-discrimination laws and more public money for rape crisis centers. I sure as Hell don’t trust libertarians to treat the maintenance of a safe environment (physical or cultural) as a serious priority.

    Charles-

    Thank you for the courage to speak up on this issue. You really are doing some important ‘heavy lifting’ and I can only admire your endurance for this patient, careful translation of radical feminism into libertarian language. I unfortunately don’t think your project can succeed, because I think the problem is internal to libertarianism. But I quite sincerely wish that you will prove me wrong- because I would wish to have both.

    Lady Vetinari-

    Thank you. Dear bloody goddess, thank you. And for the courage to speak- real courage, as opposed to the alienated emotional fakeness demanded by this stoic insensitivity training.

  52. Natasha

    Aster,

    Jeremy does not believe in the be a man bullshit. I would quote him on the topic, but it’s from a Yahoo Group, and I don’t want to violate his privacy.

  53. quasibill

    If we’re trying to raise the tone of the normal debate on feminism in libertarian fora, Aster’s comments should be denounced for being the mirror image of the normal knee-jerk reaction of libertarians to feminism that they are.

    If Aster can’t fathom that, in some instances, these institutions that Jeremy dares to question might in fact be rights violators in themselves, and further that their interest might, at times, run counter to those they claim to be serving, there is a serious problem. Further, if Aster can’t conceive that, in some cases, a culture of victimhood is deleterious to all involved, that is a serious problem. Those problems are exacerbated by creating straw-men and beating them with vigor while demonizing Jeremy as some sort of male bigot.

    It’s not okay. It’s not justified. And yes, if it is left as it stands, my respect for Aster will be re-adjusted to the level of my respect for many of those that commented on DeLong’s blog. The incoherent vitriol is equivalent in both cases (if not perhaps less in the case of DeLong’s commenters).

    And if you think it is justified, you have nothing to complain about in the way feminist claims are dealt with by mainstream libertarians. The failure to acknowledge nuance and incharitable interpretation of points is precisely the same in both instances.

  54. Stella Omega

    I’m sometimes amused by men who can’t understand what they hear— and deem it to be, therefore, some kind of female hysteria, or victim culture. Quasibill, you cannot end a victim’s experience just by saying it should be ended. That is Jeremy’s problem as well.

    …in some instances, these institutions that Jeremy dares to question might in fact be rights violators in themselves, and further that their interest might, at times, run counter to those they claim to be serving, there is a serious problem.

    Jeremy needs to learn a more precise language, and there will be less of a problem. He didn’t question these institutions in ‘some instances’— he damned them every one of them. He made assumptive statements about how he thinks they must operate— with no sign that he actually knows what he’s talking about. He says that not a one of them is worthy of his presence. This leads me to an assumption of my own; that Jeremy walked into some clinic, began explaining it all and was quickly escorted back out the front door. Utterly knee-jerk of me to think that— but you know, I’ve seen it happen more than once in my lifetime.

    Further, if Aster can’t conceive that, in some cases, a culture of victimhood is deleterious to all involved, that is a serious problem.

    What makes you think that Aster can’t conceive that? in some cases begs the question of this particular case. And really, the point about the subjugation of women is that it’s been very good for men up to now. Now, for the first time in human history— it is perceived as deleterious. What you want, and what Jeremy wants, is to make it all stop right now. Which is a very kind thought.

    Those problems are exacerbated by creating straw-men and beating them with vigor…

    This looks like you want to shut down the conversation. It looks like you want the conversation to go along lines you have decided are suitable. It looks to me as if you do not like hearing what the ‘victims’ have to say for themselves. I really suggest that you read Charle’s blog from start to finish. He says many of the same things that women have been saying for themselves, but perhaps it will go down better hearing it from a man.

    while demonizing Jeremy as some sort of male bigot.

    By the things that I’ve read in this conversation— not knowing Jeremy from Adam— Jeremy is a male bigot. I don’t think he means to be. I give him credit for good intentions. But I judge him by his actions— or speech as here.

    And if you think it is justified, you have nothing to complain about in the way feminist claims are dealt with by mainstream libertarians.

    “Play nice, or I’ll beat you up again!”

    The failure to acknowledge nuance and incharitable interpretation of points is precisely the same in both instances.

    Except that, you know— the failure is much, much muchlonger on one side than on the other.

  55. quasibill

    Wow, Stella Omega -

    Your comment might be worse than Aster’s, if that’s possible.

    I’d respond to your “argument” point by point if it merited that - but it is merely personal vitriol hidden behind a veneer of self-righteousness.

    If you want to engage in honest debate, I’ll be here.

    If you want to scream your frustrations about the injustices of the world to vent, have at it. I see no need to respond further to it, as it doesn’t even come close to making a rational point, by I can understand the feeling and won’t begrudge the venting.

    If you want to assume that all males who don’t share exactly your world-view are bigots who “want the conversation to go along lines [we] have decided are suitable”- have at it (try not to drown in the irony, though). Just don’t be surprised when we dismiss you as a raving lunatic with nothing to add to a serious discussion, precisely the way we do the true male bigots who make the arguments Charles has rightly criticized. In my eyes, you and Aster are the mirror images of those bigots.

  56. Stella Omega

    quasibill,

    No one asked you to debate, you know. You jumped in to defend your buddy from those screaming, raving females.

    For myself, I do not see much vitriol in my comments, nor do I think they are particularly personal. I don’t know Jeremy, as I pointed out, except by his comments here. I will point out that his words are those of a man who does not trust women’s judgements on their own behalf, because they do not jive with his own.

    I said that I give him the benefit of the doubt as far as his intentions go. As I do you, because I, too, have reacted with baffled fury in similar situations;

    I know that men of good will are hurt beyond all measure when they are confronted by women who don’t automatically respect their intentions. In the same way, we white folk have a hard time wrapping our heads around the idea that we might, in fact, be racist. We think it’s a matter of choice, when in truth it’s the sea we all swim in. We think that nice words make us nice people. And when we are met by a bit of mistrust, by a black who doesn’t want to be our friend in an instant— and we such good people— we react with hurt and rage. It’s all that stupid black person’s fault! We aren’t racist— they are. We didn’t use the ‘N’ word, so we can’t possibly be racist! I invite you to begin to think about this, in relation to yourself.

    There most certainly exist men who are so obviously misogynist that their bigotry is easy to identify. Your symptoms are comparatively much milder, but they are quite easy to see from where I’m standing. Here you are, demanding respect— and threatening to withhold yours. What have you done to deserve my respect? What have proof have I that your respect is worth anything to me?

    Here you are, ignoring the substance of my post because it reads too emotionally for your taste— and, also, because I agree with a woman whom you feel to be unworthy. Why should a woman-centric discussion be conducted by your rules?

    So far, you have said nothing of substance yourself. You have accused first Aster, and now myself, of wanton ingratitude. If we won’t converse your way, if we don’t accept your offer of friendship on your conditions, women aren’t worthy of your conversation or support. This defensiveness is, I am sorry to say, part and parcel of your male privilege. Your assumption that women need your support and friendship, that women are never going to break out of their ‘victim culture’ unless they do it your way— Your response to criticism of your male friend as if it were a loony attack, and (you should be embarrassed by this if nothing else), your use of the royal ‘we’ are blindingly obvious indications.

  57. quasibill

    Stella,

    At least there is substance here. I don’t have time to respond in detail now, but this stuck out to me:

    “Your symptoms are comparatively much milder, but they are quite easy to see from where I’m standing”

    As your symptoms of bigotry are easy to spot from where I stand. I guess we’ll just have to leave it at that.

    “Here you are, demanding respect— and threatening to withhold yours. What have you done to deserve my respect? What have proof have I that your respect is worth anything to me?”

    Huh? Please point to me where I “demanded respect?” I have done no such thing, as I think that is the height of folly. That you somehow read that into my statements, along with alot of other implied bigotry (“perhaps hearing that from a man…”), says a lot more about your mental state than mine, IMHO. I have merely noted that someone (Aster) who so viciously took Jeremy’s statements and turned them into strawmen to beat and demonize Jeremy with would lose the respect I have for her from her past writings.

    In contrast, at some point in your polemics, you have actually demanded that I respect Aster’s opinions (“Play nice or I’ll beat you up again” - which was an amazingly hyperbolic response to my statement which once again demonstrates more about your hang-ups than mine) or I am a bigot. I refuse to play by your bigoted world view just as much as I refuse to play by those Charles has criticized. If that makes me a bigot in your view, well, there really isn’t any common ground for us to work from here.

    I’m sorry that you can psycho-analyze every percieved male that you run into as a bigot if he doesn’t bow down and beg forgiveness for all the world has dealt you - but I’m not playing that game. And I’ll call you out for the bigot that you are.

    “Your response to criticism of your male friend as if it were a loony attack, and (you should be embarrassed by this if nothing else), your use of the royal ‘we’ are blindingly obvious indications.”

    Wow. That contains so many fallacies and so much of your bigotry that I’m just going to leave it out there for all to see. It’s the most damning thing I could possibly do to demonstrate how warped your view is. Embarrasment is obviously something you have no business telling others to feel.

  58. Stella Omega

    There is substance in my first comment, quasibill. It is couched in language that you don’t approve of.

    Your reactions, once more, to my criticism, and your insistence, once more, that I am not playing by the right rules— are not really going to win you any pats on the back here.

    Do I think that you demand respect? Yes, I do. You do not need to say so in so many words. Your anger and scorn towards certain opinions, which you reduce to hyperbole,E.G.

    …viciously took Jeremy’s statements and turned them into strawmen to beat and demonize… …bow down and beg forgiveness for all the world has dealt you…

    tell me as much. I am sorry, that my comment “Play nice or I’ll beat you up again” was misinterpeted as a threat. I was NOT referring to my beating you up. It was my comment on your statement;

    And if you think it is justified, you have nothing to complain about in the way feminist claims are dealt with by mainstream libertarians.

    To me, you were saying that women who don’t play by libertarian rules (as you interpret them) deserve everything they get.

  59. Stella Omega

    Oh, and here’s your loony attack, and your personal blindness, and Royal we— all in one handy sentence;

    …Just don’t be surprised when we dismiss you as a raving lunatic with nothing to add to a serious discussion, precisely the way we do the true male bigots…

  60. freeman

    Ugh…

    As far as I’m concerned, the only person here who likely isn’t bigoted at least to some degree is Charles. I include myself here, despite always thinking of myself as feminist, anti-racist, etc.

    Why is that? Well, here’ssome food for thought. I discovered that here at this blog a few months ago.

    Oh, and I’m not Dain.

  61. Stella Omega

    Thank you for that link, freeman!

  62. Sergio Méndez

    Aster:

    When you say that there is an inner problem with libertarianism vis à vis its possible reconciliation with feminism, what do you think that inner problem is? Could you elaborate?

  63. Jeremy

    Cease lecturing people on how they should “deal with their fear,” as that is their own private emotional business

    It is a strange individualism that says that people’s individual emotional states have no bearing on the society that emerges from their sum. That doesn’t strike me as a holistic approach to the matter (but libertarianism has always been a bit atomistic).

    And I’m not lecturing anybody - that would imply that I have it all figured out. It’s my prerogative to bring up critical analyses of any situation without necessarily having the silver bullet (or worse, acting as if I have it). There are many things I’m wrong about, I’m certain, but I won’t let that stop me from talking with people and learning from them. If that offends you, well… I’d have advice but I wouldn’t want to infringe on your emotional sovereignty.

  64. Jeremy

    On this issue, however, I feel as if you’re being rather uncharitable and unfair to the many diverse anti-rape groups.

    Yes, in my zeal to make a point, I have been unfair towards them. That was a mistake.

  65. Jeremy

    Jeremy needs to learn a more precise language, and there will be less of a problem. He didn’t question these institutions in ‘some instances’— he damned them every one of them.

    This is true. My sincere apologies for introducing noise into the signal. This is precisely why I wanted to take the conversation out of this venue: nobody gives a fuck what I think, because I’m taking the conversation in an off-topic direction. A core vice of libertarians, generally speaking, is our willingness to go to bat for principles without checking their consequences in the real world, and I usually denounce this kind of approach to ideas in strong language. Shame on me.

    In other words, Jeremy’s brand of libertarianism means that the onus is on the oppressed to refuse to cooperate with their oppressors.

    Sigh. Well, to the extent that this is an analysis, incomplete and abstract, I agree. I think there are useful conclusions one can draw from employing this analysis.

    I’m not so afraid of being labelled or - God forbid - being wrong that I won’t attempt to talk freely on the matter, let the chips fall where they may, and try to learn from others. I certainly won’t learn anything by keeping my opinions, sound or erroneous, to myself, where they are unchallenged and can fester in thoughtlessness. I appreciate the (non-personal) critiques.

  66. LadyVetinari

    It is a strange individualism that says that people’s individual emotional states have no bearing on the society that emerges from their sum.

    In that case, you shouldn’t just cavalierly say they should “deal with their fear.” You should give them some sort of idea of how or why they should do that. If their individual emotional states have bearing on the society, you have the right to comment on it, but also the obligation to say something productive beyond “deal with it,” which is NOT the same thing as asking you to have a “silver bullet.” What doesn’t make sense is saying that they should figure out how to deal with it all by their lonesomes but you get to stand on the sidelines and tell them they’ve got a culture of victimhood going on. Especially since you’ve brought up no actual evidence that this culture of victimhood even exists.

    quasibill, I know quite a bit about anti-rape activism and have seen no sign of “a culture of victimhood” therein. The emphasis is squarely on bringing rape survivors (not victims) out of victimhood.

    If Aster’s comments have been angry, there’s a damn good reason for it: there’s a LONG history of using the slur of “victimhood” to shut up any person, especially women, who dares bring up the subject of oppression. So anyone seeking to argue that there is a fetishization of victimhood going on ought to have a solid argument backed up with examples. It’s not the sort of term that ought to be casually thrown around in a political discussion.

  67. LadyVetinari

    Although I appreciate that Jeremy is dealing with the criticism civilly. Thank you, Jeremy. I hope I won’t cause offense by saying that it’s a far better discussion of social oppression than I’ve seen from any other group of self-identified libertarians.

  68. Jeremy

    In that case, you shouldn’t just cavalierly say they should “deal with their fear.”

    Well, frankly, I don’t think there’s any way for a white male to talk about a problem he does not personally face without sounding somewhat cavalier. The internet is ready made for “you know what you should do?” conversations.

    That said, I don’t see why I have an obligation, in pointing out a condition, to offer the solution. shrug I don’t know what rape victims “should do”. They shouldn’t necessarily listen to me. I’m confused if you feel threatened by something I’ve said; I don’t see how talking about ideas hurts anybody (this is the major problem Aster and I have with each other, BTW - there is history there).

    I do find it lamentable that so much time is spent trying to convince other people that they should change. It seems a magnificent way to avoid action and not achieve victory. Not that others couldn’t stand to change, but it’s gotta suck to wait on them. The radical approach would be not to cooperate with your oppressors. That can happen NOW, and it can upset the stability of the spontaneous order.

    It’s not that women aren’t victims (that’s not what I mean by “victim culture” - anymore than “rape culture” means all men are rapists); it’s that I find it so very sad that they should rely on waiting for men to change. And that they should contribute effort and money to organizations that beg men to change, and that focus on realizing change externally, rather than cultivating a culture of resistance to oppression.

    I just don’t see it as radical to ask the system to conform to you; in fact, it’s downright conservative. Then again, maybe that’s the best we can do right now.

    What doesn’t make sense is saying that they should figure out how to deal with it all by their lonesomes but you get to stand on the sidelines and tell them they’ve got a culture of victimhood going on.

    Well, I never said they have to go it alone. I just hope that in the process people are understanding themselves better, because just analyzing and critiquing society doesn’t seem to be getting us anywhere very quickly. I think self-realization and self-understanding are far, far more important than “social change” writ large - or rather, that the former is the means by which the latter is realized (have any feminists done work on “confronting your inner patriarch”? I’m genuinely curious, because I can’t have been the first person to consider this angle).

    And I don’t think this is a problem unique to feminism - in fact, my critique here really applies especially to libertarianism itself, where we see the problem as “the big bad state” rather than the million ways we go along with the status quo rather than resisting it. It’s easy to look outside ourselves and see problems, but too often we ignore our participation in this spontaneous order. After all, the spontaneity isn’t the core feature; it’s the stability it generates that makes it worth conserving. Individuals can deny systems stability.

    If Aster’s comments have been angry, there’s a damn good reason for it: there’s a LONG history of using the slur of “victimhood” to shut up any person, especially women, who dares bring up the subject of oppression. So anyone seeking to argue that there is a fetishization of victimhood going on ought to have a solid argument backed up with examples.

    I was using the concept “fetishization of victimhood” more in the sense that a picture of society is painted where one party is always at the mercy of the other, and that therefore no safety or comfort can be achieved until the latter party changes. Obviously, and individual who experiences violence is a victim of it. That’s different than a woman constantly fearing rape, and moreover, living with, and putting up with, the constant fear of rape. Do you see a difference there, or am I slicing it too thin?

  69. quasibill

    Stella,

    Let’s see if I can provide the context to my comment so you can stop trying to imply subtext that directly contradicts the actual text of what I have written.

    1) Charles makes a comment about the reader’s obligation to give the most charitable interpretation to text permissible, instead of immediately jumping all over the most uncharitable interpretation possible.

    2) Aster and Judges nineteen jump all over the least charitable interpretation of Jeremy’s comments and demonize him.

    3) Charles says Aster and judges nineteen are justified in their reaction.

    4) I make a comment that Aster and judges are not justified, using exactly the same language Charles made to defend his interpretation of Brownmiller, and to criticize libertarian critics of Brownmiller’s thesis.

    Does this clear things up for you? My comments were directed at two distinct personalities, Charles, for his double standard, and Aster, for her vitriol which detracts from my opinion of her. I said, and meant, nothing else by my statement - there was no “demand”.

    “Your reactions, once more, to my criticism, and your insistence, once more, that I am not playing by the right rules— are not really going to win you any pats on the back here.”

    Wow. Perhaps you should spend more time interpreting your own posts to find your own subtext instead of attempting all this pop psychology on someone you know absolutely nothing about. I don’t need your pats on the back, so you can place you condenscending righteousness elsewhere. And again, where have I ever said anything about rules except for in your pop psychological analyses? I haven’t because it makes no sense to me - this is where your condescending implications are so palpably and obviously false that you make a bigger fool of yourself every time you engage in it.

    “Do I think that you demand respect? Yes, I do. You do not need to say so in so many words. Your anger and scorn towards certain opinions, which you reduce to hyperbole,E.G.”

    Maybe you ought to interpret why you react in such a way to my statements when I have explicitly noted that I do no such thing? Or is actually engaging in honest conversation with an ignoramus such as myself beneath your almighty pop psychology intellect?

    You note my anger and scorn and call them “demands for respect”. Are your anger and scorn demands for respect? Was Asters? Why are your demands for respect justified, but not your perception of my statement as mine? Is it because I don’t agree with you?

    In fact, I have no anger, as I’ve shown in the context above. I was merely pointing out Charles’s hypocritical response to Aster’s post. And your “e.g.” leaves out the context of what I was actually responding to. So sure, assume and imply away. In your world, you are right, and everyone who dares to disagree is misogynist, at least subconsciously. It’s a perfect system, much like the one our president has concocted : “I’m always the good guy, because by definition, anything I do can’t be bad (or sexist).

  70. Rad Geek

    quasibill,

    What I said is that Aster had good reason to be angry when Jeremy said things like That doesn’t make the fear [of rape] justifiable, rational, or warranted, identified what I described as ignoring or suppressing the fear of rape with Taking control of one’s own emotional well-being, and repeatedly responded to suggestions that a woman might have good reason to feel fear or grief as part of normal human life with the claim that such views are anti-individualistic and fetishize victimhood. This specifically came up in the context of asking freeman to back off a particular, very personal line of counter-attack, and to re-channel any criticism he might have into a discussion of substantial ways in which he thinks Aster might have misinterpreted Jeremy instead of scorched-earth attacks on Aster personally. (As freeman, to his credit, did; which I thank him for.)

    I don’t believe I actually said anything about judgesnineteen’s comments, which had to do with a distinct issue — Jeremy’s extremely uncharitable and frankly uninformed early comments about anti-rape groups (which he later retracted, after judgesnineteen had made her comments.) Now that you mention it, however, I’ll say that judgesninteen had good reason to be angry, too.

    Whether or not they have reason to be angry with Jeremy and whether or not their replies were the most charitable or fair way of interpreting what he said are actually two separate questions. For what it’s worth, I think that they are entirely fair descriptions of Jeremy’s opening comments, which directly and unambiguously declared women’s feelings of fear about rape to be unjustified and rape victims’ grief to be unhealthy and to be an impediment to acting appropriately; they would be much less fair if intended as descriptions of his position as presented in comments further down the thread. But the issue here isn’t one of charity between two alternative interpretations, because Jeremy (to his credit, and I thank him for it) substantially revised his stated position between the earlier comments and the later comments, as a response to the critical reaction that his comments got. I don’t know whether it was a matter of simply correcting early misstatements he made early on, or a matter of adjusting his early views and stating the new views; but in either case the later view involves retracting several direct claims that were made in expressing the earlier position. I still disagree with a lot of what Jeremy is maintaining, but it’s a noticeably different view.

    If Aster were to make an extended critique of Jeremy’s position as it now stands, rather than a short immediate reaction to a few specific key comments that Jeremy made, for all I know her reconstruction of his position might very well attribute views to Jeremy which he definitely doesn’t hold, or which it would be uncharitable to presume that he holds; it might fail to take account of things like the revisions that Jeremy made to his position from the comments he made later to the later comments in which he revised his view; and if so, then it would be a good thing for any misstatements she might make to be challenged. But as things stand there isn’t much in the way of an extended reconstruction of Jeremy’s views from either Aster or judgesnineteen either to agree with or to take issue with; there are a couple of short reactions to particular direct and unambiguous statements that Jeremy made, which involved well-justified anger (both at the statements themselves and at the way in which those statements fit into a larger context of how men in our society talk about rape), and which I would argue were perfectly apt as reactions to the statements they were directed against — although if repeated now, without taking account of Jeremy’s substantial revisions to his position (including a direct concession on, e.g., his earlier remarks about anti-rape groups), would now be somewhat unfair.

    The fact is that I’ve actually said very little at all by way of intervening either way in this particular sub-thread of the dispute, except once, to try to head off a particular discussion which I think would be very distracting and spectactularly unfruitful (i.e., rehashing acrimonious personal conflicts from the time when Aster closed down her Salon listserv). I haven’t spent more time saying something about it, partly because I don’t think I have much productive to contribute to it, and partly because I’m busy working on other things, both on and off the blog.

  71. quasibill

    Charles,

    “For what it’s worth, I think that they are entirely fair descriptions of Jeremy’s opening comments, which directly and unambiguously declared women’s feelings of fear about rape to be unjustified and rape victims’ grief to be unhealthy and to be an impediment to acting appropriately; they would be much less fair if intended as descriptions of his position as presented in comments further down the thread.”

    Ah, but Jeremy’s clarifications further down thread were exactly how I interpreted his initial statements. Again, it was your own standard that said that it was unfair to give the least charitable interpretation to Brownmiller. Since I saw Aster’s and others comments as the least charitable interpretation (which has been borne out by Jeremy’s subsequent replies), I was shocked, to say the least, that you said this method of interpreting Jeremy’s statements was justified, when you were criticizing others for doing the same thing to Brownmiller.

    You can (and I do, in some respects) disagree with what Jeremy has written - but there is no denying that the initial reactions were indeed the least charitable interpretation of his statements, akin to the least charitable interpretations of Brownmiller that you rightly criticized. Since you don’t approve of that form of addressing Brownmiller’s arguments, I’m interested to hear why it is appropriate for addressing Jeremy’s.

    And of course, I understand that this thread has taken a life of its own, and despite my best efforts, I’ve been pulled into a flame war with someone who has no desire to have sincere discussion. I’m going to leave that exchange as it is, because it is going nowhere productive, and I apologize for bogging down your site with it.

    So I didn’t necessarily expect you to give a response - I was merely pointing out what I saw as hypocritical treatment based upon point of view. Your response so far really more or less evaded the issue - you seem to agree with the least charitable interpretation of Jeremy’s early post despite his later clarifications - which are perfectly consistent with a more charitable reading of his original post - without addressing why that interpretation was appropriate for Jeremy’s early post but not Brownmiller’s writing.

    The fact that you interpreted it uncharitably to begin with and think his later clarifications represent more of a change of heart does not change the fact that your initial interpretation was the least charitable one out of several possible interpretations.

  72. Jeremy

    For the record, my amendments to my argument were corrections, at least in my mind. I own that some of my earlier comments were either ambiguous or needed more qualification than I gave them. I made some rhetorical errors because, frankly, I got a bit confused about the point I was trying to make. A day’s reflection on the matter exposed some poorly worded or composed ideas.

    I don’t blame anybody here for any particular interpretation of what I wrote. I have not devoted nearly as much time to this topic as many in this discussion. They’re justified in questioning my approach based on their experience, which is inseparable from opinion. I’d prefer if we could be less personal about it, but it’s not like I’ve never jumped down somebody’s throat when I’ve seen them make what I think are stupid statements. While one person has a personal vendetta, I’m thankful for everybody else who put any thought into what I said.

  73. Stella Omega

    Jeremy, your amendments read like a man who is actively thinking. I appreciate that.

  74. LadyVetinari

    Jeremy,

    I find your statements more clueless than threatening. If you say you don’t know what rape victims “should do,” then how do you feel comfortable telling them they should “deal with their fear”? Can’t you see how such phrasing can come across as lecturing and condescending?

    I’m confused about your statement that expecting the system to conform to you is conservative. In my understanding, the conservative view tries to mold people to institutions and systems, while more radical views do the opposite.

    The only way “self-analysis” on the part of rape victims can help stop rape is if you think women’s behavior is responsible for rape. There’s no reason why a rape victim should analyze herself after rape unless she thinks her actions were at fault. I trust I don’t have to explain how offensively wrong that is?

    Societal analysis is necessary because, in the end, it’s society’s enabling that makes rape so common. You seem to think societal analysis gets in the way of individual or collective action. But it’s not so, in fact it’s the opposite: societal analysis provides a firm ground for individual and collective action.

    I agree that it’s awful to think that women will never be safe or comfortable until men decide to stop raping. That’s a very unpalatable idea, and I don’t think it’s wholly true: women do a lot to punish rape victims as well, and women standing in solidarity with each other and with allied men can do a lot to make rape much, much less common.

  75. Discussed at pages.prodigy.net

    Worth reading -- Thomas Nephew @ newsrack:

    […] Women and the Invisible Fist (Charles Johnson, Rad Geek People’s Daily) —- Libertarians (and others) grant and even assume the possibility of spontaneous order; but if so, must they not also grant the possibility of spontaneous repression? An interesting essay by libertarian Charles Johnson argues yes, with a close examination of writings by feminist theorist Susan Brownmiller. […]

  76. Jeremy

    If you say you don’t know what rape victims “should do,” then how do you feel comfortable telling them they should “deal with their fear”?

    I’m not telling them how they should “deal with their fear”. I’m simply thinking out loud about it. Is that OK, or do I have to accept all your premises in order to even speak on the subject?

    That’s not sarcasm; apparently, even questioning the work of feminists in reaching their own goals is threatening to you. That is the only reason I can think that you would attack me for simply talking about ideas. I’ve made no endorsements whatsoever other than mere thought experiments and conjectures.

    Let me make it perfectly clear: I have no idea what anybody “should” do.

    Can’t you see how such phrasing can come across as lecturing and condescending?

    Yeah, I can. Even though I’ve repeatedly stated that I’m just thinking out loud and speculating on a matter I have no detailed experience with, I’m sorry I haven’t been able to figure out a way not to elicit this reaction in you while still speaking my mind. The truth is that as much as I regret it, I’d rather offend you and speak my mind than shut up. Sorry.

    In my understanding, the conservative view tries to mold people to institutions and systems, while more radical views do the opposite.

    Some radicals push alternative systems and institutions, while other radicals push for the abolition of systems and institutions. I find the latter much more authentically radical than the former.

    The only way “self-analysis” on the part of rape victims can help stop rape is if you think women’s behavior is responsible for rape. There’s no reason why a rape victim should analyze herself after rape unless she thinks her actions were at fault. I trust I don’t have to explain how offensively wrong that is?

    Ah, I see the problem here: you think my prescription for rape victims is self-analysis. That’s not what I meant. I was suggesting that ALL OF US look at the ways in which our behavior contributes to the stability of such spontaneous, oppressive orders. I was not saying that a rape victim needs to go to a new age healer before she files her police report.

    In fact, I think a big part of the disconnect here has been that I’ve been talking about the activist part of the equation, and you and others have interpreted my comments as applying to the part of the equation dealing with helping immediate victims of violence and rape. I think those are distinct endeavors with different priorities and purposes.

    But it’s not so, in fact it’s the opposite: societal analysis provides a firm ground for individual and collective action.

    Well, that’s your opinion, and I respect it. It’s certainly true - it’s just not the whole picture. Society is composed of individuals, and knowing yourself as an individual, dealing with others as individuals, and forming authentic, organic groups as individuals has power, in my experience. Societal analysis is useful, certainly. It is not the end-all-be-all, and it has a definite bias towards abstracting patterns of behavior away from the human beings who do the behaving in a way I find sort of unhelpful sometimes.

    women do a lot to punish rape victims as well, and women standing in solidarity with each other and with allied men can do a lot to make rape much, much less common.

    Glad to hear it; I plan to be among those men. I just hope you’ll allow me to have my opinions while I’m doing it.

  77. Discussed at www.katallaxi.se

    Sänd mina rötter regn » Blog Archive » Lästips:

    […] Sanchez inlägg om Social Media and Harassment. Han länkar också till Rad Geeks utmärkta text om Women and the Invisible Fist som behandlar spontan ordning och feminism. Postad 2008-05-26 15:28 i Feminism, Lästips, Sverige, […]

  78. Stella Omega

    I’m not telling them how they should “deal with their fear”. I’m simply thinking out loud about it. Is that OK, or do I have to accept all your premises in order to even speak on the subject?

    I am sorry to be so easily diverted; one thing that interests me to the point of obsession is how we express ourselves online and how we can better make our meanings clear in this medium.

    This is a perfect example, because it did sound as if you were telling and prescribing. I find that, if I preface my thoughts with disclaimers, I am less likely to be taken to task for making absolute statements when I didn’t mean to. I find also, that making a disclaimer at the beginning of as many sentences as possible, sometimes every single one, is a necessity.

    I find this to be more important when the topic has strong emotional meaning for one group of the conversation, and extremely important when I am not a member of that group.

    In other words, make double-damned sure that your thought experiments are clearly labelled as such.

  79. LadyVetinari

    That’s not sarcasm; apparently, even questioning the work of feminists in reaching their own goals is threatening to you.

    No, because I didn’t read you as questioning the work of feminist in reaching their own goals. I read you as judging rape survivors in their struggle to heal themselves. If that’s not what you intended, as your recent comment suggests it’s not, then that’s the source of our misunderstanding. Glad we cleared that up, if this is the case.

    It’s certainly true - it’s just not the whole picture.

    No, it’s not. I would never say that it is; it’s a question of finding the right balance between acknowledging social forces and respecting individual volition.

  80. Stella Omega

    Jeremy;

    eight days after you left this comment…

    > And when women adopt strategies other than constant confrontation and open defiance for surviving life in a rape culture, they usually have their own reasons for doing so, and the reasons are usually pretty good ones, given the circumstances.

    Well, whether or not they are good reasons isn’t for you or I to say. In the end, they may not be good reasons. In fact, they may be reasons which account for the perpetuation of this unacceptable culture (this is where I was going with the “tacit consent” route).

    I’m wondering how you would rephrase this, at this point in time?

    (should or could we move this discussion to your blog? )

  81. Jeremy

    This is a perfect example, because it did sound as if you were telling and prescribing.

    What if I was prescribing? Would it matter? Do I have any authority?

    I apologize for angering you and others; I could have been clearer. I’ve certainly let myself get carried away by emotion in response to anonymous voices on the internet, so the exchanges here don’t lower my opinions of you all.

    But on a certain level, what if I was an asshole? Would that change anything about the truth or falsity of my statements? I’m not trying to escape responsibility for my own missteps, but simply to highlight perhaps another situation in which we buy into another’s presumptions of authority in the very act of taking them seriously.

    I’m wondering how you would rephrase this, at this point in time?

    I don’t think I would rephrase that passage, since I expressly qualified it as an opinion and conjecture, to the point of saying that neither I (a male) nor Charles (another male) really had any authoritative say on the matter (just in case somebody tried to paint my opinions as dictatorial decrees).

    That passage is the essence of my point: it seems to me that people participate in their own oppression at a certain level. As I’ve said before, this dynamic doesn’t apply uniquely to women - I think we all have thought patterns, self images, and conditioned behaviors that reinforce our society, and that there is much we could do ourselves to overcome this programming and resist oppression. Ultimately, our fear of death and suffering prevents us from liberating ourselves totally, and until we come to grips with that, we will always be enslaved at some level.

    This conversation has really been enlightening to me, and I appreciate you engaging me thusly. I think there is a TON to be said about the ideas we’ve discussed here, both from the perspective of femininsm and from the perspective of rational communication in general. Thanks a lot for your patience.

  82. Stella Omega

    Jeremy,

    The highschool teacher in me wants to point out that you can preface your thoughts with your disclaimer, instead of adding on at the end. That way, your readers begin reading with a sense of, as Charles puts it, “charity.”

    And that teacher also wants to point out that you conflate “reasons” with “consequences.” Let me re-write a sentence for you;

    Well, whether or not they are good reasons, I fear they may have poor consequences, which might account for the perpetuation of this unacceptable culture (this is where I was going with the “tacit consent” route).

    (“I fear” is a disclaimer. Notice it’s at the beginning of the sentence.)

    At which time I would point out that anyone in a position of appeasement can only worry about their condition right now— in the worst case scenarios, they can only hope to stay alive long enough to be a part of that unacceptable society in the future.

  83. Jeremy

    The highschool teacher in me wants to point out that you can preface your thoughts with your disclaimer, instead of adding on at the end.

    Yeah. That’s what happens when you’re writing reactively, as opposed to writing on your own terms. Because I was defending myself, I focused on narrow answers to arguments rather than fully fleshing out what I wanted to say. I realized this eventually; by that time, I guess you and others were hanging me by my words.

    I appreciate the tips!

  84. Stella Omega

    I wanted to give you some idea of why you might become so misconstrued, basically.

    Yeah, any hanging was via your own words. Words are all we have on the internet. It’s impossible to know any more of a person than that. So, if we stretch our verbal necks out, it behoves us to learn how to protect those necks against the rope of unexpected conflict.

    Hmm. Must develop this metaphor.

· June 2008 ·

  1. Jeremy

    Charles, I haven’t stopped thinking about the ideas you and others here have prompted me to think about. I know you’re a busy man, but I’d appreciate any thoughts - perfunctory or otherwise - on this Wendy McElroy article. I’d be interested in a libertarian, anarchist reply to her position (which is also libertarian / anarchist). I don’t totally agree with McElroy - I think the idea of a patriarchal culture of rape has merit - but this line seems congruent with the point I was trying to make about the need for action and not mere expectations:

    Women have the absolute right to live without being attacked. But no right can be enjoyed for long if it is not defended, and vigorously.

    “Girls grow up believing that they’re going to taken care of, but it just ain’t so.” (Wall Street Journal, Feb.4, 1993)

    Self defense is the last frontier of feminism. And it is the solution — if one truly exists — to rape and other forms of violence against women. Politicizing women’s pain has been a costly diversion from the hard work that is necessary to make women safe.

    To me, the only thing worse (in the sense of depressing and disempowering) than being oppressed by a culture is the expectation that you cannot be free until the culture changes.

  2. LadyVetinari

    Hi Jeremy! I hope you don’t mind me giving my opinion on your question.

    To me, the only thing worse (in the sense of depressing and disempowering) than being oppressed by a culture is the expectation that you cannot be free until the culture changes.

    It may be depressing and disempowering, but

    (1) I think it’s true, that freedom can’t be achieved just by being a strong individual, and

    (2) I don’t think it’s as depressing and disempowering as you say it is. “The culture” is not a separate entity from you, you see. Many of the steps I take to keep myself and my friends safe are about “changing the culture”: offering self-defense classes, educating men and women on what to do in practical situations when they see a rape going on, disabusing them of rape myths that prevent people from intervening in a rape or punishing rapists…etc. “Changing the culture” is a big part of what self-defense does, and groups that try to change the culture do so by direct action, not by mere pleading. For instance, on my campus, we have a group of women escorts who you can call to walk you through dangerous or ill-lit areas. Our organization has changed the campus culture, and for the better, and it was done by our actions, not by some force in front of which we are helpless.

    As for McElroy, I strongly disagree with what she says and find many of her arguments to be not just wrong but disingenuous. The last sentence you quoted seems emblematic to me of that:

    Politicizing women’s pain has been a costly diversion from the hard work that is necessary to make women safe.

    “Politicizing women’s pain” is a vital part of the hard work necessary to make women safe. Rape has GONE DOWN since the bad old days before feminists started “politicizing pain” with their touchy-feely “victim politics” that McElroy loves to decry. Raising awareness and changing laws and social norms work. They have been successful in reducing the rape rate, and their success has taken place over a fairly short period of time (30 years or so, not bad for a social movement against something as ingrained as rape culture). I also disapprove of McElroy’s decrying what has been done by feminists while touting self-defense, because it’s feminism that has made self-defense for women even seem like a feasible option in the first place.

    I find the concept of using firearms, which I know McElroy advocates, to be intriguing. But I’m uncertain about their efficacy—most rape is acquaintance rape, not stranger rape. I question how effective firearms would be in the case of a boyfriend or male friend attacking you.

  3. Jeremy

    Thanks for the feedback, LadyVetinari. It’s good to see clearly where other feminists take exception to this construction. Especially with regard to (1), I think these are areas where I really am starting to change my mind (away from your position, but clarity is always appreciated).

    I’d like to finally take my thoughts and my response off this blog so that we can talk about oppression and the culture and psychology of it without necessarily bringing along the baggage of feminist analysis.

  4. Aster

    When someone claims that ‘feminist analysis’ is intrusive ‘baggage’… well, that says a great deal to me.

  5. Natasha

    Aster,

    To play devils advocate — which is not to necessarily agree with Jeremy — the non-bigoted anti-intellectual religious conservative criticisms of feminism tend to view identity politics as generally inadequate and divisive. In other words: they contend that the issues important to feminists are important for all human beings, and that talking about what psychologically happens to victims of oppression is a broadly human concern, but I don’t have the experience of being viewed as a woman and treated as such, so all I can say about feminism comes from what women tell me or my own abstract reasoning.

    My thoughts on why feminism is important are below:

    If society and culture had been equal in the beginning, then we’d never have had to talk about oppression specific to women or denial of legitimacy to the feminine, but that has not been the reality of the world. And, in fact, patriarchy is one of the most pervasive and most damaging institutions mankind has ever created. As we speak, there are countless Afghan women suffering from the barbaic traditions of conservative Islam. I never hear this talked about in libertarian circles. Aside from, say, a Roderick Long or Charles Johnson, the plight of Afghan women and the general quashing of women’s freedom seems ignored or downplayed. When, in fact, the evidence would probably indicate that patriarchy is one of the most pressing threats to freedom and individualism in the world today.

    I need only cite the medieval customs and legal bigotries that hold sway in the Middle Eastern Islamic nations to provide evidence for my point. In the more modern nations, it’s better, but there are forces of pre-modernity bent on turning back the clock. The fact that a rapist cop can be let off, because the rape victim in question was violating patriarchy’s notions of “decency” by being a stripper is a sign of a culture embracing misognistic anti-sexual moralism of the worst kind.

    I don’t know as much about the state of patriarchy in more modernist European nations, but I do know that the U.S. is suffering from the influence of bigoted religious notions about women that tend to come from the direction of the religious right.

  6. Natasha

    Oooh, I forgot to mention the issue of abortion rights. That’s one reason why all libertarians should be concerned about feminism, because the issue of abortion rights is unavoidably connected to freedom for women.

    Ain’t no way around it. Men don’t get pregnant.

  7. Aster

    Natasha-

    But most influential libertarians today are indifferent if not hostile to individualism, if that word means a world where people can be themselves and not just an excuse for throwing the poor and the marginal out on the street to die. And the same libertarians are against abortion rights. Look at Lew Rockwell, Ron Paul, H.H. Hoppe, Bob Barr. They oppose the state because they see it as an enemy of the dark, frozen society of patirarchal tyranny of which they expect to be the masters. And that’s most of libertarianism today. In facr, it is libertarianism, in the brass-tacks sense that Arthur Schlesinger, FDR, and John Rawls are (or were) liberalism, whatever that word used to mean a century and a half ago.

    Libertarianism is an ideology which doesn’t get (or doesn’t want the rest of us to get) that customs and class structures are just as ontologically real as governmental institutions. Just because they aren’t written down doesn’t make them any less potentially iron-hard for their victims, just as the fact that governmental structures of power are formally written down doesn’t mean that the real government is what the state really does and not what the law says it does. But what libertarians oppose is merely the kind of rule which is modern and public, a matter of citizenship rather than civil society- and it is crucial to remember that moving social structure out into the open onto a plane of public citizenship as opposed to the old rank and caste was one of the most important victories of the Enlightenment, and to dismantle that is morally equivalent to cutting down mass literacy or the separation of church and state.

    The better libertarians (the Reason/Cato type) just don’t get anything but the state issue, and are no less oppressive than the general society on any other issue. The worst libertarians totally do get the things that matter, and they hunger for the return of real structures of power- including violent ones, whose purpose is to keep themselves as the rich white patriarchs on top of society. Which means that with liberal civilisation in such desperate straits, libertarians are more often than not in the camp of the forces working to destroy it.

    The best ones do oppose statism along with other evils. Trouble is, they barely exist, and can’t strongly take a stand against the rest without ceasing to function in any meaningful sense as libertarians. On one hand, notice Roderick Long’s affiliations with VMI, an institution stuffed with racists, patriarchs, neo-Confederates, historical revisionists, and other stagnant pondscum. On the other hand, take Kevin Carson on class (and note that his wonderful ideas on class serve to fuel what I increasingly suspect is a very dangerous agenda on cultural and feminist issues- I would love to hear him come out with a public position here). What’s the difference between Carson and aa progressive who also mightn’t favour governmental authority were it not for private power? I see it as meaningless in practice- Kevin merely promises that we’ll get rid of the welfare state after the anti-capitalist revolution. I agree with him, of course- but I think it means that I’ve no longer a right to call myself a libertarian. I wish I’d had more sense and less false consciousness; I would have dumped that poisoned label years ago…. but the point is that the moment that Carson admits that class doesn’t always trump statism, he’s effectively become a left-anarchist instead of a libertarian. Good for him.

    As for the devil’s advocate argument, I consider most who present it either clueless or dishonest, and those who are neither are effectively feminists under another name; a real ‘gender equalist’ who opposes the sex caste system can call him- or herself what s/he likes, but s/he’s probably on my side.

    It’s not the name people use that matters, it’s whether people actually will respect your individuality, treat you as an equal, and watch their back. As Christopher Hitchens said, it’s getting to be useless to ask for people’s politics; instead one’s better to ask for their principles, and I’d add that common sense, trusting your instincts, and respecting yourself is a surer guide than how much they spout off about liberty (or equality, or whatever).

    If that is the standard, then libertarianism has nothing to offer me, or to you. There’s nothing you can trust in it; I know plenty of libertarians who could easily rationalise calling the cops on someone for smoking a joint, and would take a great deal of pleasure in doing so. Those you can trust to care if you live or die, to defend your human rights, to keep society a place you can live- are almost never libertarians. Goddess bless the two or three exceptions, but what can they do?

  8. Jeremy

    When someone claims that ‘feminist analysis’ is intrusive ‘baggage’… well, that says a great deal to me.

    Any statement can say a great deal when you read into it. I have no time or candy for people seeking out a slight in every word I write.

    But to clarify, I’d like to talk about oppression more generally and get away from talking about oppression in the context of an area of study that (a) already has some established systems of thought I’d rather not have to address, and (b) I don’t know a lot about.

    It’s not the name people use that matters, it’s whether people actually will respect your individuality, treat you as an equal, and watch their back.

    Aster, I could not agree more. Sounds like what you’re saying is that ideology is insufficient. It’s funny, ‘cause that’s exactly what I was saying about rights on the Salon that got you so riled up in the first place, IIRC.

    Those you can trust to care if you live or die, to defend your human rights, to keep society a place you can live- are almost never libertarians.

    Those are called friends, and ideology is no substitute for camaraderie and friendship. Trust is inherently not ideological. If the people who have described themselves as libertarians have somehow let you down in this area, I fail to see what could have been done differently - especially since, for all the tolerance and respect you expect from libertarians, you have precious little for those who don’t fall into lockstep agreement with your worldview.

  9. Natasha

    Aster,

    Just an interesting quibble here.

    Neo-confederate doesn’t necessarily mean racist, since it could also mean a non-racist supporter of the structure of the confederacy.

    And the left-anarchist Mikhail Bakinun praised the Confederacy’s organization himself! Though, he did not support the actually existing Confederacy, because of its slavery and statism.

  10. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2008-06-09 – 10,000 ways to lose your freedom:

    […] at newsrack, lefty Thomas Nephew kindly took notice of GT 2008-05-16: Women and the Invisible Fist. Nephew […]

  11. Rad Geek

    LadyVetinari,

    Thank you, again.

    Jeremy,

    By way of reply, I broadly agree with LadyVetinari’s response. While I think that self-defense (including the use of handguns) is a perfectly legitimate tactic, it’s just not true that feminist anti-rape activists don’t encourage forceful self-defense as part of the response to rape (Dead Men Don’t Rape has been a popular graffito since at least the 1990s, possibly earlier; campus groups I was personally involved with hosted a number of rape-defense-oriented mixed martial arts trainings for women). On the other hand, it’s also important to recognize that individual physical self-defense at the moment of the attack is only one form of defense against rape, and, while important and valuable, should not be fetishized as the be-all and end-all. Cooperating with other women (e.g. through safety escorts, Take Back the Night events, etc.), changing culture, providing material resources like refuges, etc., are all also important, particularly once you move from the response to stranger-rape, into the broader response to all forms of rape and battery against women.

    One thing that I also want to stress, which I haven’t stressed enough yet, is that we’ve been talking an awful lot about women’s response to rape. That’s important. That’s what feminist anti-rape organizing is mainly about, for lots of reasons. But women aren’t the only people who can and should respond to the threat of rape against women. You and I and many other men are in this society too, and if we care about freedom and justice for women, it’s also on us to think about how we, as men, are going to respond to rape and the culture of male violence within which it exists. It’s sometimes, but rarely, the case that we are going to be able to do much by way of, say, women’s individual armed self-defense. (Women are sometimes, but rarely, attacked when men who can be relied on to stop the attack, rather than turn away, cheer it on, or join in, are around.) But we can do some introspection and critical reflection about our own relationship to masculinity and sexual violence. And we can make efforts to change ourselves, to talk to other men about these issues, to offer support to the women who are talking about and organizing around these issues, and to work towards changing the broader culture.

    Natasha,

    I need only cite the medieval customs and legal bigotries that hold sway in the Middle Eastern Islamic nations to provide evidence for my point. In the more modern nations, it’s better, but there are forces of pre-modernity bent on turning back the clock.

    I think that it is a mistake to try to line this issue up with modernism as against pre-modernity. The condition of women in the actual medieval Caliphate was bad, as it has been bad in almost every place and time where there is written history to record, but the actual Caliphate, while male supremacist, was, as a matter of degree, nothing like the totalitarian gender apartheid regime inflicted by the supposedly medievalist Taliban. In Christian Europe, the condition of women actually got much, much worse during the Renaissance and early modernity than it had been during the middle ages. The material and legal condition of women (absolutely and as it compared with the material condition of men) were generally much better in the Early and High Middle Ages than they were in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries. And the appalling gynocide of the European witch craze — so often mistaken for a medieval atrocity — was actually a distinctly early modern terror. The Malleus was written in 1486; the emergence of the witch hunts depended on certain signal features of modern jurisprudence (especially the replacement of punitive criminal law, where medieval law had been primarily restitutive and most rights violations handled as civil cases rather than as crimes against the State), and the period of the deadliest witch hunts is generally dated to ca. 1560–1760, contemporary with the English Renaissance, the later Reformation, the Scientific Revolution, the colonization of the Americas, the peak of the European Enlightenment, and the flowering of vernacular male European culture.

    I don’t disagree with any of the particular cases you mention — obviously, I find the Taliban perfectly appalling, and have written about it often; as I also find hard Right fundamentalist creeps whose critique of modernity has everything to do with their romance for an idealized past of domesticated women and terrified queers. But I think it’s a serious mistake to take that kind of romanticized counter-history, and simply endorse the mirror image of it; we have to be very careful to look at the facts on the ground, and to disrupt the prevailing narratives where those narratives tend to distort or obscure them.

    I agree broadly with the reasons that you give for thinking that feminism and a critical analysis of patriarchy ought to be important to lovers of freedom. I’d only add that, in addition to the issues you outline, there are also a lot of very important connections, which I think anyone who wants to seriously endorse an anti-war, anti-cop, anti-psychiatry, and/or broadly anti-authoritarian position needs to look at, between patriarchal power — the earliest and in many ways the deepest form of hierarchy, into which every one of us is inducted and indoctrinated from the day that we are born and named — and (1) the violence, the morbid sado-sexuality, the domineering command-and-control mentality, and the macho swagger of militarism and paramilitary law-and-orderism; (2) the know-it-all sadism of legally privileged institutional psychiatry; and (3) the way in which phallic sexuality and masculinity, on the one hand, and femininity or effeminacy, on the other, provide so much of the basic vocabulary for explaining, whether as justification or as condemnation, nearly every system of power that has ever been devised (the use of rape as a standard fixture of ideological rhetoric for imperialism, colonialism, and oppression; the use of fuck, screw, references to anal rape, etc. as common terms for exploitation and injustice; the references to cuckolding, emasculation and castration as synonyms for the loss of power; the use of female names, the word bitch, abusive references to women in prostitution, etc. in order to place men on the bottom of a hierarchy of power, etc.). A hypermasculine creep like Officer James Kuhnlein keeps underlining his power over his helpless victim by calling this 20 year old man young boy — thus rhetorically positioning himself as the elder and the father. Gandhi, for all his passion and all his insight, still positioned himself against British colonialism by repeatedly talking about the ways in which it emasculated India and forced Indian men into a position of effeminacy — as if making a country metaphorically ballless or dickless were the worst sort of evils you could inflict on it; as if being womanlike were an obviously terrible state for a man to be in.

    The fact is that there is really so little vocabulary for power and authoritarianism that does not participate, either overtly or tacitly, in this kind of gendered and sexually charged language that I think there is, quite literally, no way talk seriously about power, oppression, hierarchy, exploitation, and coercion, without eventually talking about men, women, children, and heteropatriarchy. The only question is whether the talk is going to be explicit and self-conscious, or whether it’s going to be constantly right there on the surface, and constantly used, but never really mentioned or reflected on. I think it’s important to have those kind of discussions directly and in the open.

  12. Aster

    Natasha-

    You’re right, neo-confederates don’t have to be racists. They just have to be tribalists who care a great deal about their blood-and-soil attachment to a particular mythologised collective of molding ancestors. And they have to be specifically attached to a cultural nationalism which happens to be a particularly patriarchal and conservative, order-and-rank closed society. And in order to do that, they have to hop evasive rings around the hideous and widely publicised historical consequences of that kind of society.

    No, neo-confederatism isn’t essentially about racism- it’s about anti-thinking tribalist romanticism of America’s most closed society in the face of mountains of real-world evidence as to the nature of this kind of culture.

    Some leftists just will not face the reality of atrocities which occur in non-Western cultures, because it affronts a certain naive picture of the world which they wish to believe in disregard of all facts. Neo-Confederates do the same- but without any possibly equivalent excuse of ignorant idealism or good intentions.

    Why would anyone who believes in the free spirit and the creative original mind ever get involved with this kind of movement? What kind of mentality would you have to adopt in order to feel a deep, fundamental attachment to the legacy of Dixie? What kind of individualist could care this much about any traditional, inherited identity instead of who they might be and ought to be as an individual?

    And of course, most neo-confederates are in fact racists, and everyone knows this. One obvious reason for this is the brazen fact that slavery and racism were defining structural features of antebellum Southern society, and that anyone who truly holds these evils in the proper horrified contempt would never desire to sanction a movement even partially infected by that kind of taint. And even if racism had never been the defining evil of the Confederacy that it very definitely was, any society rooted in this kind of tribal, kin-based identity will immediately start tending towards the fear of dissidents and outsiders which tribalism by nature encourages. If your identity, duties, virtues, stories, and role in life are not yours to choose but inherited from your kith and kin, so that ‘who we are is who we were’, as John Quincy Adams put it in the movie Amistad, then why wouldn’t you be racist? In the long run the only cure for racism and other forms of prejudice is to learn to see people as choosing, thinking, independent, individuals. Neo-confederates revolt deeply against a broader American society with at least some respect for this ‘I’ in the name of a particularly nasty ‘we’; ugly persecution of anyone who won’t go along with maintaining fake self-esteem which is the purpose of that ‘we’ is just a consequence. Deeply racist societies are deeply racist because they are anti-individualist; anyone who tries to romanticise anti-individualist cultures while denying that racism has anything to do with it is either dreaming or just plain lying.

    Then there’s the practical point: what do you think a revived Confederate States of America would mean for black people. gays and lesbians, women, non-Christians, etc. trapped in the South? An independent South would ban abortion and reinstate state persecution of homosexuals on the second day after independence. I doubt they’d re-establish slavery, but some how I doubt life would improve for human beings of the browner variety, especially given that an independent South would be one ruled even more thoroughly ruled by the class-based old-boy networks who form the South’s real power structure. The only good thing I can imagine coming out this situation is that it might allow the rest of the United States to recover the insitutions of the open society (might, being the key word; the South is far from the only thing devouring the soul of ‘the land of the free’ right now). But it would not justify abandoning every women, queer, young-person, and non-white to the fate which would be in store for them behind the closed doors (or the iron curtain) of the Mason-Dixon line.

    Neo-confederates, in short, are not white hats. The principles of 1789 and 1968 just do not mix with the mythology of the Lost Cause.

  13. Aster

    Jeremy-

    “Any statement can say a great deal when you read into it. I have no time or candy for people seeking out a slight in every word I write.”

    Very well; then don’t give me any time or candy. I’ll just note that I’ve heard that kind of statement from a great number of people (almost exclusively men) as a declaration that they don’t take feminist issues seriously. Since I think that these issues are very serious indeed, and find that I and most of the people whom I admire and care about simply have to treat them seriously as a matter of self-defense (at least if they wish to preserve their equality, autonomy and self-respect) , I do tend to get rather angry when I hear words like this. If it wasn’t your intention to dismiss or downplay feminism here, then I was wrong and do apologise.

    “Aster, I could not agree more. Sounds like what you’re saying is that ideology is insufficient.”

    Not in the sense in which you seem to believe this. I respect reason, ideas, and truth and take them very seriously; I don’t think that reason is only words but do think that words aren’t always used in ways which tell the truth or intend to. My trouble with libertarians certainly isn’t that they care too much about ideas, but that their words now usually pair with different kinds of ideas (very bad ones) than a naive person might suspect at first glance (e.g., the Hoppean sense of ‘freedom’ as primarily the absolute right of white male property owners to exclude foreigners and nonconformists and dictate the lives of tenants, employees, wives, and children). My answer isn’t to de-emphasise ideas but to get them right this time- and I find that right now other ideologies conduct he genuine ideas of individualism with less resistance than does libertarianism.

    “It’s funny, ‘cause that’s exactly what I was saying about rights on the Salon that got you so riled up in the first place, IIRC.”

    I don’t believe we are saying the same thing at all, for reasons I hope other comments in this post address sufficiently.

    “Those are called friends, and ideology is no substitute for camaraderie and friendship.”

    I agree. In fact I agree very highly with your position that friendship is more important than ideology, altho’ I suspect on very different grounds. To me love and friendship imply a spiritual appreciation for who another person actually is, and that does have a great deal to do with ideology. To discover that a friend was a fascist would make it impossible for me to continue to feel friendship for them. I dearly wish this illustration was merely hypothetical except in degree.

    “Trust is inherently not ideological.”

    I very much disagree. If a person doesn’t use reason to think, doesn’t practice authenticity with their feelings, doesn’t see people as individuals with interiority (as three of a large number of ‘for instances’), then I certainly can’t trust them. I also certainly can’t trust anyone with an ideology which sees me as less than a fully equal human being to everyone else, which just cut out at least half of the human population of this world (the more I see of men, the more I prefer cats). It’s true that it’s the substantial way of seeing the world, not the words, that matters. But how people really see the world matters immensely in terms of how much I can trust them. If someone tells me that their belief is hat we should all live in conformity to God’s plan instead of trying to be happy on Earth, then I start preparing to defend myself against imminent attack. It shouldn’t be necessary to further explain the reasons why.

    “If the people who have described themselves as libertarians have somehow let you down in this area, I fail to see what could have been done differently, especially since, for all the tolerance and respect you expect from libertarians, you have precious little for those who don’t fall into lockstep agreement with your worldview.”

    I have no tolerance for worldviews which seek to cavalierly throw away he kind of society in which I can live and function… i.e., the open society. Anyone who seeks to tear the concept of rights out of human society and therefore abort liberal civilisation is simply not acceptable company to me. Would someone who declared their intention to let others run you out of town on a rail be acceptable company to you?

    I and almost everyone I admire or care for would last five minutes in such a world. I don’t think that creating such a world is your personal intention, the way it is the intention of most declared opponents of individual rights. But the result would be the same, and as I live in and for this world, that matters a great deal to me.

    If that’s intolerance, so be it. I can’t get along with someone against abortion rights or prostitution rights, either. Libertarians should understand that one (not that they do, because for most of them women don’t really count), since they are supposed to recognise that those who propose to violate your individual rights are effectively working for your enslavement, which I think it’s quite fair to get pretty upset about. The difference with me is that I consider the defense of an open society to be the broader and more fundamental prerequisite of the defense of individual rights, without which formal liberty is impossible and meaningless- and I see a person who advocates a return to traditional society as calling for my enslavement is a much more spiritually substantial sense than someone who ‘merely’ advocates conscription or censorship. Actually, I can much more easily deal with someone tho defends conscription or censorship (or even prostitution laws, altho’ not abortion restrictions), than I can someone who wants to jettison the French, American, and industrial revolutions- because one can sometimes get around unjust laws, but one can’t get around a social structure which doesn’t recognise the idea of the individual to begin with. In fact I dare say that I can hang as comfortably with a fair number of people as the average libertarian. True, I object to shooting pool with racists and homophobes. But most libertarians can’t seem to deal comfortably with poor people or feminists. Which of these is worse, others can judge as they wish.

    The tolerance I expect from libertarians isn’t agreement or even kindness, but simply judgement by the content of my character instead of by my sex and gender identity. That’s all. Past that they can condemn me all that they wish on grounds of reason. If they want to dislike my character (and goddess knows that you at least have just reason to), then that’s their moral right. What isn’t their moral right is for them to act like my human rights are of second class importance to theirs and that my very existence is fair game for every possible kind of discrimination and abuse. And the same for similar issues; I expect people not to be racist, or sexist, or homophobic, or whatever. I don’t think that any worldview which can’t get past these atavisms has any right to serious consideration as a rational philosophy or belongs in any politics which was supposed to be a matter of reason, freedom, and individualism. Sure, that kind of stuff is OK if one lives in a world of father-right and tribes. But that isn’t the radical individualist philosophy of human liberation I stupidly fell in love with 10 years ago, and I see no reason to treat it any differently than I would any other apology for injustice and oppression which is not only simply bad, but which has very real, day-to-day effects on my quality of life.

    Most personally, I’m not going to give the slightest aid and comfort to a political philosophy which tells me that the things which really, really matter to me aren’t important at all and that I must be hysterical to get my hair all up in a knot about it. For instance: if I find out that a sizable number of libertarians treat Holocaust denial as no big deal, then that just ended my respect for those libertarians. Anyone who thinks Holocaust denial is OK is telling me that my life and freedom (and more importantly the basic difference between mythic lies and rational truth) are of negligible importance to them. No, I’m not going to tolerate that, except of course in the legal sense of freedom of speech. How could I?

    Basically, if libertarianism asks for oppressed and marginalised people to sacrifice themselves for its procedural justice, without the slightest concern for their interest, happiness, equity, or humanity, then why should anybody who really needs a philosophy of liberation have the slightest use for it?

  14. Natasha

    People with the ideas above upset me, but I don’t feel as threatened as I could, when I don’t think they’d actually act on them.

    This is another consequence of coercion being acceptable in getting what you want from people. It makes it harder to trust others that disagree with you, because you’re not sure whether they’ll help bring the force of law against you.

  15. Natasha

    Aster,

    I supported the Lawrence vs Texas decision of the Supreme Court that struck down state sodomy laws across the nation.

    The interesting idea here is that American culture in the South will have to become more individualist before the achievement of anarchy can become a real complete reality.

    Question: do people have right to form a contractual community that bans sodomy? Remember that the classical anarchists who are commonly identified as “left-anarchists” by right-anarchists proposed communal decentralization as the alternative to the monopolist state.

    Let’s say we reach a state of individualist- mutualist communities or neighborhoods or whatever that have open borders, so it’s pretty much one big mutualist world.

    If a group of people split off and went somewhere to form a community that banned sodomy, then how would the rest of the world treat it? Would they be justified in invading and liberating it once they started actually trying people for the “crime” of sodomy?

    I guess I know your answer, but I am curious to know how you deal with the property rights question. Even socialists like yourself would argue you’re justified in having an apartment like private space that you can decide things about.

    For the record, I think Rand had the right idea when she said dictatorships don’t have rights.

  16. Jeremy

    If it wasn’t your intention to dismiss or downplay feminism here, then I was wrong and do apologise

    It wasn’t my intention, and thank you. As I said earlier, much of the static in this conversation arose from me trying to argue for a viewpoint that didn’t really go along with the conversation here. That’s what I meant by “baggage”.

    My answer isn’t to de-emphasise ideas but to get them right this time- and I find that right now other ideologies conduct he genuine ideas of individualism with less resistance than does libertarianism.

    My response to you about ideology being insufficient was essentially meant to indictate that it’s hard to get an abstract body of ideas to be “right” in 100% of cases. Your response to libertarianism’s inadequacies is to find an alternative ideology, whereas mine is to wonder whether any one approach to the human condition is sufficient.

    This, in a nutshell, is the core of our differences. Since I don’t look to libertarianism for every single value by which I’ll judge a situation or condition, it’s easy for me to take what I like from libertarianism and dispose of the rest. I don’t need an all-encompassing approach to individual rights and justice. On the other hand, if I can speculate, you seem very desirous of some very well-defined, rigid ideological base on which you can build your identity, and so it’s very important for you to win the arguments you’re bound to have with others and make sure that that base is as perfect as possible.

    I have the luxury of tolerance because I don’t feel threatened. You do feel threatened, so I understand where you’re coming from at least a bit.

    If a person doesn’t use reason to think, doesn’t practice authenticity with their feelings, doesn’t see people as individuals with interiority (as three of a large number of ‘for instances’), then I certainly can’t trust them.

    See, it’s my opinion that an ideology - a system of thought - engenders in people many of those very ills you mention. Ideology causes people not to think for themselves, but to accept pre-packaged conclusions of whole cloth. It causes people to distinguish themselves from others which leads to inevitable inferiority/superiority behaviors. It allows people to adopt an identity that is necessarily inauthentic, based in something externally-defined.

    But trust is a personal thing, relying on an intuitive judgment about a person’s character. In other words, anybody can spew positions - it takes a person of character to stand by them, say, when the riot police are closing in.

    I have no tolerance for worldviews which seek to cavalierly throw away he kind of society in which I can live and function… i.e., the open society.

    I cannot speak for other worldviews, but I will say this for libertarians: often, we are interested, not just in the justice of our positions, but the viability of our positions. This is an important point: other political tendencies can downplay issues of viability by simply intending to capture the apparatus of the state and force their proposals on people. For libertarians, because we want to see social structures that do not rely on institutionalized coercion, we try to be very open minded about considering structures that are sustainable without state intervention.

    This does NOT by any means necessitate our acceptance of such structures. We can at least talk about, say, taking the Amish practice of “shunning” as an acceptable libertarian means to community self-regulation, without having to also adopt their religiosity and austerity in other areas. We can talk about realizing individual liberty and all the ends of natural rights advocates without necessarily adopting the means of codifying rights and establishing protective institutions.

    Maybe this makes us more friendly to outcomes we should be hostile towards. It is the result, in many cases, of honest searching for not just justice, but sustainable, viable justice. It may be motivated by a longing for old hierarchies rather than new ones, but I ask you to be very careful about painting all libertarians with that brush. If there are concerns we’re ignoring, bring them up, and let’s talk about them.

    Anyone who seeks to tear the concept of rights out of human society and therefore abort liberal civilisation is simply not acceptable company to me.

    OK. What about deconstructing and analyzing what is, effectively, a rather complex concept? I get the feeling that you see individual rights as sacred ground none of us are worthy to examine.

    Would someone who declared their intention to let others run you out of town on a rail be acceptable company to you?

    No, of course not. But to extend the metaphor, the town isn’t something set in stone - the town is the object of our inquiry! We’re trying to understand what the town is, what it means to live in it, and what it means to be run out of it.

    Your fears are well-founded in the present context, but libertarians try to think outside that context. This has dangers - left libertarians constantly excoriate vulgars for their ahistoricity and abstractness. But it also has advantages when pursued honestly and openly. I would have hoped you would join us in a fearless exploration of possibilities, which is really the heart of anarchism for me.

  17. Aster

    “People with the ideas above upset me, but I don’t feel as threatened as I could, when I don’t think they’d actually act on them.”

    Natasha-

    With all due respect, and very sadly more than respect, I believe that you are considerably naive about what people in the world truly believe and what they are capable of.

    I did, for a few years, believe that people were safe like this. It was beautiful to think that way, and it made me so much kinder to other human beings to do so. I so wish I could think that way again, even if it’s dangerous and leaves you vulnerable- just because it makes for such a beautiful world, both within and outside you.

    But I can’t unsee what my eyes and mind tell me, not without clouding my mind in this terrible fog of poisonous dishonesty- and not without a some degree of privilege and cruelty towards the majority of the human race who, as the Buddhists observe rightly, are in Hell.

    I actually have a very positive view of the nature of this Earth, and what people call ‘human nature’- in principle. I love children and see little but good in them, and don’t see any reason in the world why we can’t and shouldn’t be able to live togather in peace and happiness. But the Darwinian logic of what groups and ideas survive is just weighted disastrously in favour of patriarchy, collectivism, tyranny, and the crushing human spirit. And most people are so terribly enmeshed in power, and have so little remaining of what was once their spirit, that they’ve been made very dangerous to those around them, and most especially towards the few that weren’t broken quite as much as they were.

    I think the decency that most people with the time, leisure, and freedom to think about art and philosophy expect and experience from others is a very rare product of privilege- a privilege which everyone should have, but a very rare thing.

    It can take centuries of effort to even establish a tiny island where people really have the space to be their liberated, human, selves (and incidentally therefore create a sanctuary which might liberate others). Necessity, sociobiology, and the brute logic of the cruelty which wins in conflict work so terribly against it. Even a small and explotive aristocracy which is able to sustain a culture whcih allows a little of what we might be and ought to be is such a difficult, rare attainment. Something like the world we’ve become used to now is just a miracle, for all of the repressions and atrocities which we should scream against within it.

    Today we are seeing one of those rare islands being resubmerged into the closed society’s ancient darkness. I don’t think many people comprehend what is truly being lost; what we are all seeing dying before our eyes. My best judgement is that it won’t be very long before everyone has to comprehend it in some sense- but even then people will look at the surfaces, at economics and wars and such. But what is truly being murdered today is an idea, a vision of a possible life, life as an open and vivid landscape and not a rigid yoke to serve and suffer through. If that truly goes, the way Communism and fascism tried to blot it from the Earth in the last century, it might never come back.

    I think if we wish to preserve such a precious jewel as liberal civilisation- let alone fully extend and realise it to anarchy, at least some people have to look at the world’s evil with open eyes. I don’t think we can preserve freedom and prevent brutalisation without looking honestly at what brutalisation can and does do to people- how much the most tortured victims of oppression are made into its agents who are dangerous to the free-spirited individual. This is why I am not a populist but a liberal.

    I think I could prove to you that most people around you, schooled from birth in authenticity and repression, repressed in their souls by dozens of parents, teachers, employers, and other authority figures, taught hideous lies, and pressured immensely into lives they hate merely to survive, are in fact a threat to anyone who somehow escaped in body and soul from their crushing game. I’m not sure if I want to. I don’t like at all seeing people the way I do, what I think is seeing them more honestly and clearly. I don’t really want you to see them that way, and in fact hope very much that I’m wrong and that you never have to. Part of me feels like its a horrible crime to write anything which might cause others to lose that bright experience of the world, even if I believe that it is the truth.

    I can only say- you know how open I was. You at least saw and know that I meant it. That is what I think life is really about.

    I can’t look at people the way you do any more. I wish I could. Goddess, I wish I could, even at the price of a lifetime of believing falsehoods, as long as I could really believe them, and sincerely- as opposed to closing my eyes and faking my mind. But i can’t, and I’ve no use for those who insist that I say nice things about the bilge most people take for granted, and insist you take for granted so that they can go around feeling acceptable with their small or large allotment of bilge.

    Honestly, I’m not sure how much it all matters. We’re all powerless anyway, as individuals, to change the colossal motions of the world around us. I suspect the most mature answer is to learn to find beauty is awareness of the darkness and suffering of life- that the only way to live sweetly and honestly is in the romance of tragedy, that necromantic beauty which hints at dying.

    But I’m not mature myself- I just want smiles and sunlight, all the stuff that the bourgeoisie destroy in the search of symbolic displays of the same. As I’ve told you in private conversations, I think trying to change the world is entirely altruistic unless the means of doing so are themselves rewarding and beautiful, which they are not in a declining age. It is better , like Candide and Siduri, to cultivate our own gardens. We are all dying anyway.

    May you be forever young.

    Jeremy-

    Perhaps this will explain myself to you more than any direct answer could. I truly am sorry for the disgraceful way I attacked you on my salon. What I originally said to you on this thread honestly wasn’t part of a vendetta, but a reaction to words which spat acid in my eye. I don’t think you mean it, but a great deal of your words make me feel that way. I’m not certain if you understand why.

  18. Jeremy

    I don’t think you mean it, but a great deal of your words make me feel that way. I’m not certain if you understand why.

    I appreciate the apology. I assure you I don’t understand why you feel that way, but I’m sorry for my part.

  19. Discussed at www.reason.com

    Bringing Sexism Back -- Kerry Howley, Hit and Run:

    […] Anyway, this seems like a good time to link to Charles Johnson’s wonderful post on what Hayek teaches us about rape. […]

  20. gcobau

    I haven’t read Brownmiller’s book. However, you’re quotes imply that she thinks that rapists do men a kind of favor in the “battle of the sexes”. I believe that nothing could be farther from the truth. She states that rapists keep women in a state of fear. However, as a non-rapist, the last thing i want is for women to fear me. Brownmiller’s interpretation appears to be reductive and overly simplistic. Rape is a selfish act that actually harms men who don’t rape as well as women.

  21. Rae

    This is a personal comment to the writer of the article from me. That is to emphasize that I am not trying to use personal emotions and experience to influence the current debate. So I would appreciate it if everyone respected that and did not bash me for foal play in debating. I’m new to this site and have been reading many articles and this one resounded with me. Thank you.

    To the author,

    Trying to be a feminist in this world without being labeled “an irrational hysterical women seeing all men as the enemy” is not easy to do in this country. This article has given me words for the concepts I feel I have been trying to express for years. I know you said you don’t agree with all of Brownmiller’s conclusions, but neither do I and that isn’t the point. It’s the argument for solidification and consideration for all forms of systematic political violence. I feel like I’ve been beating my head up against a brick wall trying to get the average person to see the how many forms of misogyny are natural and inherent in our political and social climant.

    On a personal note, a friend of mine was recently raped, and I struggled to explain to her how “sucking it up”, not reporting it, and simply being careful in the future are not ways of being strong, but being a victim. Allowing the rape and fear of rape in the future to change HER rather than punish HIM are great injustices and she deserves better. That she DIDN’T ask for it by having that third drink, and no woman should be on constant watch for potential rapist in every man. Rape is far more common than I think many men can realize because reports of rapes are more often spoken only amongst female friends and never formally reported. She’s not the only woman I know who has been raped.

    Thank you.

  22. Aster

    “I haven’t read Brownmiller’s book. However, you’re quotes imply that she thinks that rapists do men a kind of favor in the “battle of the sexes”. I believe that nothing could be farther from the truth. She states that rapists keep women in a state of fear. However, as a non-rapist, the last thing i want is for women to fear me. Brownmiller’s interpretation appears to be reductive and overly simplistic. Rape is a selfish act that actually harms men who don’t rape as well as women.”

    I think the issue as to whether rape culture acts in the interests of men depends on what a given set of men want, or in other words what are the values which constitute their interests.

    Rational (heterosexual, hereafter implied) men who desire love, sex, and companionship with women have every reason to oppose rape culture, which indeed causes women to fear men and sex generally, and just terribly destroys so much which a benevolent and safe erotic society could provide. When I was a (straight) guy myself, I definitely wished very much that most other men would stop acting in ways gauranteed to make women in general fear men and sex- and rape is an extreme example of these.

    But the trouble is that most men (and of course most women), have been brutalised and pressured away from genuine emotion and happiness and have subtituted these with the kinds of power and status the system does reqard you with (more or less, depending on class and such) after you’ve given up your soul. And such people, whose souls are geared not towards real thinking and feeling but towards power and perks, may very well get a kick out of others being subordinated.

    A person who feels honestly would find raping someone* an experience so horrifying as to heavily suggest suicide (in fact a far more damaging than being raped, physical damage and disease aside), but a person whose soul is mainly a composite of others’ expectations isn’t paying attention to their own feelings but instead to what other people think combined with some level of raw sensation- all in an emotional atmosphere of mixed rage at their own repression and inexhaustable need to prove that they’re really on top (they have to keep proving it because the feeling is really a hollow lie, as being ‘on top’ is esentially just faking). A rapist is trying to butress a lie at the core of their personality other the tortured bodies of his victims.

    *note: I absolutely do not include BDSM arrangements

    The patirarchs who benifit from the myrmidion situation have a pscyhology similar to that rapist. Strictly speaking, they don’t really benefit (nor does the rapist), since they had to give up their real feelings to be even part of the game- and selling your soul is a terrible bargain no matter what you win (except in the hideous, tragic, and overwhlemingly common case of selling your soul to survive). But when power is all that is left, a system which forces women to cling to daddy, husband, or sugar-daddy for protection gives the patirach in question a trapped milch-cow for his self-esteem. To the patriarch’s eternally sagging ego, which must always appear robust at all times (since his whole life is an effort to convince himself that everythign he gave up his real self for was infinitely worthwhile), can appear to be not only desirable but a matter of psychic survival. In this sense, all of the fathers and husbands who want to control ‘their’ wives and daughters have every reason to go out and thank the village rapists for the invaluable service they provide- driving the female herd into their barns and deterring them from trying to break out.

    An analogy is segregation: obviously a rational white person has nothing to gain from a stupid system which wastes so much potential intelligence, productivity, and friendship; every honest and beautiful soul in a black body is a tragic loss to us all in a world so starves for brilliance and passion. But immense number of white men still supported segreation, because their collectivist souls valued being seen to be better than others and wielding power over them more than any thing which would really make them happy (this is incidentally why I am intransigently opposed to making peace with Southern and other premodern societies, because the whole way of living in one’s soul these tribal kinds of societies demand is essentially and deeply fake and utterly ruinous to the spiritual honesty which fuels passion and genius; the inevitable bigots and atorcoties are by contrast ephemeral contingencies). And such people clearly were enabled by a Klan which terrified black people who might step from their assigned roles of being shat upon so that these spritually impoverished white wretches could feel fake superiority by shitting on them.

    The analogy to rape is obvious. Sure, no rational person wants to live in a world in which ptential lovers have their souls diminished by fear. Byt sadly people who think this way with any consistency are fairly rare, and oppressive systems virtually force everyone to adopt the psychology of power. So in this sense, men as a class absolutely do structually benefit from a rape culture. One might even say that all men benefit, since those males who would seem an exception to the ruels are precisely those who have risen above identifying theit souls and interests with the sex-class ‘men’. And these men are very much harmed by rape (altho’ not as much as the women whose bodies are violated), and are harmed both in the subjective and absolute sense.

    Incidentally, my ethics are a variant or synthesis of Randianism, so I would not qualify the sexual torture of rape as ‘selfish’. I don;t want to ghet distracted on this issue, but I hope my broader ethical framwwork is clear from the above.

  23. Aster

    Natasha-

    “I guess I know your answer, but I am curious to know how you deal with the property rights question. Even socialists like yourself would argue you’re justified in having an apartment like private space that you can decide things about.”

    On “socialism”: I consider myself a socialist in the sense that Benjamin Tucker used the term; i.e. I believe that capitalism is a system of structural exploitation of some classes by others, and that this needs to end; non-captialists share collective interest and should organise against the domination of capital, with the abolitition of this capitalist class a crucial condition for genuine human emancipation.

    That use of the word ‘socialist’ is probably radical enough to scare most libertarians into running for their stakes and crucifixes*. At the same time, I don’t feel intensely comfortable identifying myself as a socialist among those who would strongly identify with the term. Part of the reason is because I’m anti-statist (except operationally and tactically), but that’s really not the point, as some socialists are also anti-statists and the ones I hang with certainly are at least supposed to be (some anarcho-communists seem to forget this on days of the week ending in Y).

    My stronger discomfort with ‘socialism’ is with other things the term usually implies- such a s collective organisation and a hostility to profit and the proft-motive. On the first I’m just too personally introverted (even if I’m very extroverted for an introvert and among introverts); on the second I just do not see anything intrinsically satanic about money and stuff- I rather like both and just wish more people could have fairer accesses to more of it. Also, I get tired of a ‘workerist’ attitude which reeks of the Protestant ethic and constantly tries to downplay any issues which can’t be crammed into an economistic model. We bother to eat bread only for the sake of admiring roses.

    I don’t like the capitalisitc reduction of all value to monetary value and think that the bourgeosie qua bourgeoisie are an aesthetically imbecilic group of stuffed shirts (stuffed pants, too) who are incidentally oddly incapable of valuing material things well. People ruin wonderful things like smoothies, computers, nice houses, and slutty clothes by making them into chains and status symbols- and nearly all ‘shameless extravegance’ seems to me to be all about status and not about real prosperity- and I’ve got no real beef for people who really enjoy luxury (It would be nice if I get to have some, but to me the point that they are good is both more philosophically difficult and philosophically important).

    *I get an image of Wesley Wyndham-Price

    Anyway, despite some of the more intemperate bile about libertarians I think I once spewed out to you on the phone, I’m not into nationalising private property and lining rich people up against a wall (unless you mean… never mind). As for setting rules on private property, I’m not sure I have a clear answer right now. The libertarian schema does’nt maximise positive freedom, but neither dord smy slternatice i’m familiar with- and I don’t get the feeling that anyone has seriously set down and tries to build a principled property scheme on posotive liberty and the means of self-actualisation rather than formulaic negative liberty.

    But I do know that if the concept of private property is being used in a way to prevent people from living the lives that they choose, that my basic allegiance is to the latter principle rather than the first procedural claim. Any real anti-authoritarian thumbs their nose at petty landlord and employer regulations regardless of what the lease and property title says as long as they aren’t really hurting anyone. Kids who are going to grow up to be real individualists are not goody-two-shoes who obey their parent’s house rules but instead the ones make absolutely certain to have sex on their parents’ bed at least once.

    I’m not saying people should treat other’s things cavalierly (altho’ if other people have the things just because they’re an established landed oligarchy or something I see no reason to oppose redistribution of welath by direct action), and actually when private property really is an expression of someone’s life and soul I’d like to see people treat that property with the kind of reverance one gives to a painting or a manuscript, and for the same reasons (I’ve covered my hair the few times I’ve found myself in a Christian church, not because I like religion but because I respect a building seriosusy dedicated to an aesthetic, cultural, and historical narrative).

    But I’ll go the libertarian Hell before obeying some private proerty owner’s issues with ‘sodomy’, and anyone who respects a free human spirit should help others do the same. I guess my rule is that when people make private property feel like a prison, it gets the respect of a prison; conversely when people make public property feel like someone’s personal labour of love I feel like treating it like an art project at a true friend’s house. But helping people break stupid private rules should be a matter of honour; I loathe tobacco products as a rule but would buy a pack for any underage kid on principle, and same deal for kids who need help bypassing the controls of their parents. And given the fact that a great number of people seem to think that the purpose of private property is to give them a domain in which they can lord over anyone with the misfortune to stray inside (I’m right now thinking of rural New Zealand housewives whose self-esteem is inextriavably linked to maintaining a house always prepared to express to any visitor that no one has ever enjoyed living there), I generally find that I act by strict libertarian property rights concepts in inverse proportion to how much the sacred status of property rights get shoved in my face.

    This is something I see quite often: the same people who constantly suffer from having their private rules ignored and precisely the people who seem to spend their Saturday nights making lists of rules; similarly economic exploitataion and inventory shrinkage go hand in hand. Libertarianism would be one thing if it was the people who hate long lists of rules running the show- in an economu composed of individuals and firms like that ‘a wo/man’s home is hir castle makes great sense. But a libertarianism that thunders about the duties of all to obey the covenants of gated communtiies had better not get too attached to their silverware. I think that there’s at least a little truth in the notion that most people know when they are being screwed over and that the private property owners who keep having trouble with the little people tend to deserve it. In any case, I’ll cry about the issue some time after the Oscar Wildes and van Goghs stop dying in poverty and all the property stops being owned by crabby old bigoted white guys and big creepy companies.

    I don’t know if this counts as ‘socialism’. I’m not terribbly out to tear down the evil order (but sure, it’s evil, please tear it down) so much as I’m tired of seeing private property used as an excuse to keep people down, obedient, and repressed. If private property gets in the way of people living free and human livers then it loses its sacred aura, but when private property further self-actualisation perhaps it should be very sacred indeed. I’m not so concerned with the system and scheme as the results, and since of seems the popular schemes are terribly flawed I don’t have a much better answer than opportunism and ad hocery. Kevin Caron’s great, but I live in the real world and I’m not at all sure he’s answered the issues about how things will really work in mutualtopia.

    In general it’s probably a good idea to respect property rights unless there’s a good reason not to in order to keep things from getting really mess, but British landowners and American corporations way comprise a good reason not to. If your boss has pointy hair its ethical to liberate all the office supplies you can carry, and right-libertarians who object should be stapled to the wall as a warning to others.

    Oops. I think I ended up preaching the gospel of Carson according to George Reisman. Incidentally, if there are any mutualists working for George Reisman I’m looking to complete a silverware set. I’m also curious to know if the wine in the cellar’s any good.

  24. gcobau

    Aster,

    I read your reply, and some of it i agree with, though some i disagree with. First, i want to say that by calling rape “selfish”, i didn’t mean to minimize what is clearly an evil act. I just meant that rape does not benefit all men. You appear to agree with this on some level while still insisting that rape benefits the oppressive patriarchy, so this obviously comes down to a question of what kind of society we really live in. Although racism and mysogyny are prevlent in our society, i do not believe that everything can be reduced to these factors.

    My biggest objection to the view you express is to your implication that human goodness is authentic and that power structures and tribal mentalities are imposed on us by society. I am more pessimistic about human nature. It appears likely to me that, given the history of human evolution, we are genetically predisposed to living in tribal groups with hierarchial power structures. Although it is possible to break from these, heirarchial power structures may be more of an authentic and natural human state than the opposite.

— 2009 —

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2009-01-29 – Welcome, Antiwarriors:

    […] GT 2008-05-16: Women and the Invisible Fist […]

  2. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2009-06-12 – n a freed market, who will stop markets from running riot and doing crazy things? And who will stop the rich and powerful from running roughshod over everyone else?:

    […] which we will do the regulating of our own economic affairs in a free society — because, as I have discussed here before, there are two different kinds of peaceful spontaneous orders in a self-regulating society. There […]

— 2010 —

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2010-01-17 – Shameless Self-promotion Sunday:

    […] back from Hawaii. My paper (a revised, expanded and paper-ified version of Women and the Invisible Fist) seems to have gone down well — at least, I got some good discussion and had a couple of […]

  2. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2010-10-19 – Rad Geek Speaks: “Women and the Invisible Fist,” bringing Molinari to the Marxians, and Libertarian-Left Radical Philosophizing:

    […] can’t speak for the others; but here’s my abstract. (If you’ve read the post with a similar title, you’ll already have a general idea; but there’ve been some changes, and like all […]

— 2011 —

  1. Discussed at theeffie.org.uk

    Slutwalk and the fear of rape « The Effie:

    […] our Will: Men, Women and Rape” and there is an excellent, more involved discussion of her work by Charles W. Johnson here where he also does some of the best engagement with commentators I’ve ever […]

  2. Discussed at www.gonzotimes.com

    Getting Past Anarcho-Party-lines:

    […] the State as intimately connected and mutually reinforcing with the exploitation of labor, racism, patriarchy, and other forms of oppression, with governments acting to enforce social privilege, and […]

  3. martin

    This has been bugging me for quite a while now:

    for exam­ple, if you think that Brownmiller is claiming “all men are rapists,” you need to re-read the final sentence more carefully, and pay particular atten­tion to what the verb in that sentence is

    That sentence states that rape is a process by which all men keep all woman in a state of fear. So how doesn’t it mean that all men engage in rape? If I say “photosynthesis is a process by which all plants convert carbon dioxide into organic compounds”, doesn’t that mean that all plants engage in photosynthesis?

    • Rad Geek

      That sentence states that rape is a process by which all men keep all woman in a state of fear. So how doesn’t it mean that all men engage in rape?

      Because the verb in the sentence is not rape, it’s keep … in a state of fear. What the sentence says of all men is that they keep all women in a state of fear. In virtue of what? In virtue of rape. But is that supposed to mean in virtue of that particular man personally raping that particular woman, or is it supposed to mean in virtue of the existence of rape as an overwhelming social fact? The grammar of the sentence is ambiguous on this point — it could in principle mean either. Given that it’s ambiguous, the best thing to do is probably to read on to see if she clarifies what she means by her programmatic statement. She does; it’s all over the place in Ch. 6 of the book, which states as clearly as you could hope that there are men who rape, and men who do not, and her interest in all men has a lot to do with the ways that the actions of those men who rape affect not only their own status, but also the status of those men who do not.

      If I say “photosynthesis is a process by which all plants convert carbon dioxide into organic compounds”, doesn’t that mean that all plants engage in photosynthesis?

      Sure. There are cases where P is a process by which all S do V, has the implication that all S engage in P. But not in all cases where statements have that verbal form.

      In your specific example, the way in which all plants do something is by each of them doing it severally. But that’s not how all social (or natural) processes work. There may be processes which affect the standing of all members of a group without each of them having to do it for themselves. The agricultural trade is a process by which Parisians get food (in a city that has no agriculture of its own). But that does not mean that all Parisians are engaged in the agricultural trade. Most are at several degrees of separation from it. (To read the sentence as implying that they must all be in the agricultural trade is not much different from a textbook fallacy of composition — e.g., Chinese people are numerous; Mao is a Chinese person; therefore Mao is numerous.)

      Here’s a parallel for the political case. One might argue (and that one might be me) that lynch law in the Jim Crow South not only killed specific black men, but also created an environment of terror that profoundly constrained how any black man had to interact with every white man, not just with those who specifically carried out the lynchings. (Since, after all, you had no good way of knowing ahead of time who would and who would not; and those who would, would do it to you for your interactions with non-lynchers just as soon as they would do it to you for your interactions with themselves.) Now this is a complex sort of social reality, but if you want to express it quickly, you might say Lynch law was a conscious process of intimidation by which all white men kept all black men in a state of fear. It’s important to pay attention to the verb in this sentence (it’s keep … in a state of fear, not lynching) because the point of the construction is to point out how the pervasive threat of lynching affected not only the standing of the white men who actually did it, but also the standing of all white men in a white supremacist society. It’s not about the agents who bear responsibility for lynch-law as a social system, but rather about that system’s social effects.

      Now, as I said, all these sentences are framed in a way which leaves questions of agency and responsibility open to interpretation; and so they are, in some sense, grammatically ambiguous. Brownmiller could have meant to say something like what you say about the relationship between plants and photosynthesis; or she could have meant to say something more like my discussions of the agricultural trade or of lynch law. And maybe this ambiguity is a problem for Brownmiller’s writing — maybe she should have said something longer, less punchy, which writes around the grammatical ambiguity, and which could not possibly have been interpreted to mean, e.g., that all men are raping all women. But I don’t know about that. And I do know that when the direct argument of several chapters in your book clearly contradict one possible interpretation of a single sentence in the final paragraph of the first chapter, then it seems to me that’s a good reason — under principles of interpretive charity — to reject that reading as overly hasty, and to take one of the other possible interpretations. Or even if you think that those other suggested readings are strained readings of the sentence, it seems like a good reason for saying that Brownmiller oversimplified her views for rhetorical purposes in one place, and then more accurately developed her full view in another place. And in either case a critique of Brownmiller which rests on no reed thicker than that single sentence — and which simply disregards and contracts the whole point of subsequent chapters in the book — is probably a lazy critique, and the critic who advanced it probably would have been better off dealing with Brownmiller’s book than with isolated sentences of her introduction.

    • martin

      Thanks for the elaborate response, but it doesn’t convince me.

      I think key here is what “keep … in a state of fear” means. I think it means actively (but not necessarily consciously) making someone afraid. Even more so if used in combination with “a process by which”.

      For example, let’s say Moriarty somehow convinces Watson that Holmes is a serial killer, thereby instilling fear of Holmes in Watson. Would “slander is a process by which Holmes keeps Watson in a state of fear” be a correct description of this situation? I don’t think so, because although Watson is afraid of Holmes, Moriarty is the slanderer. A correct description would be “slander is a process by which Moriarty keeps Watson in a state of fear of Holmes”.

      Likewise, I think for Brownmiller’s sentence to mean what you think it means, it should be changed to:

      It is nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which some men keep all women in a state of fear of all men.

      To finish off: how would you react to

      Street crime is nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all blacks keep all whites in a state of fear.

      Or:

      Terrorism is nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all Arabs keep all Americans in a state of fear.

  4. Discussed at ne.libertarianleft.org

    Introducing ALL-oNE! | ALL-oNE:

    […] left-Rothbardians and others. We do not only oppose the state but things like militarism, sexism, racism, the current corporatism fraudulently called the “free market”. We regard all […]

— 2013 —

  1. Discussed at mercadopopular.org

    Revenge porn e o controle da individualidade feminina | Mercado Popular:

    […] Charles Johnson descreve a situação social feminina de perigo perene: […]

— 2014 —

  1. Marja Erwin

    I don’t know where to put this, but I just encountered an account of someone’s experiences as a sex slave in the American prison system.

    Saw this here: http://lisaquestions.tumblr.com/post/72382396742/kim-love-ive-had-them-put-me-in-a-shock-holdin

    And reblogged here: http://marjaerwin.livejournal.com/73982.html

  2. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People's Daily 2014-01-28 – Welcome, Reasoners:

    […] GT 2008-05-16: Women and the Invisible Fist […]

  3. Discussed at ne.libertarianleft.org

    ALL Towards the Polycentric Order! – AltExpo #12 and Liberty Forum 2013! | ALL-oNE:

    […] with (I feel). We talked about patriarchy, feminism and libertarianism and Charles Johnson’s excellent essay on that topic. We also talked a bit more about landlordism and my problems with it and I finally […]

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